‘We did not expect to be here again’: Dublin’s rough sleeping asylum seekers returned to streets

After being provided with emergency beds, the men were sent back to their tents

In heavy rain and strong winds on Monday, dozens of male asylum seekers – most of whom had indoor beds over the weekend – struggled to erect tents on the pavements around the International Protection Office (IPO) in Dublin city centre.

Others, who had tents before they took emergency beds, returned on Monday to find their tents soaked and uninhabitable, or taken by other asylum seekers. This led to fights and rows, amid increasing frustration and despair among the growing number of homeless men.

Since early December the Department of Integration’s International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) has said it can no longer offer beds to any but the most vulnerable male asylum seekers as it struggles to source accommodation. As of Friday 1,103 were “awaiting offer of accommodation”, the department said.

More than 100 men, some of whom had been sleeping rough since December, had been provided with beds on Friday in Citywest, the former central mental hospital (CMH) in Dundrum and a facility near Dublin Airport, following concern expressed by the Irish Refugee Council and across social media as temperatures fell below zero and snow fell on Thursday night.


By late Monday morning they were drifting back to the IPO having been told to leave accommodation centres. Many said they had left empty facilities and questioned why they were being forced back to sleeping on the streets in near-freezing temperatures, without access to toilets or rubbish collection.

Among them was Prince (28), from Nigeria, who has slept in a tent for three months.

“I was happy on Friday that finally they heard our cry and they were going to take us out of our pain. We went to Citywest and there was so many [beds] there. The people there said they had been empty for a very long time. I was so happy, thank God we are finally off the streets.

“This morning they told us we had to leave. They first told us they were taking us to a new site. I said, ‘okay fine as long as it not the street’. Then they told us they were taking us back to the street, that there is no accommodation. They send us away.”

He said he left Nigeria because his life was threatened by the Fulani militia. He did not know “what to think” about being back on the streets. “If I die here today I will just pray to God. I am very down. I am depressed,” he said.

Ali (22), from Pakistan, has been 32 days in Ireland, in a tent. He spent the weekend in an army tent in the CMH. “There was no heater in the tent. I could not sleep until 3am because freezing. Manager told this today we have to leave again. Sad now because what to do? We spend nights in cold again. We did not expect to be here again,” he said.

Asked where he feels the cold at night he said: “Foots and chest – on the floor is very hard because there is no mattress. It is very difficult. We did not expect this. We came for bright future and now we live in tents. It is too much freezing, too much problems.”

Eddy from Nigeria had tried to stay at the CMH as long as he could but was told the gardaí would be called if he did not leave, he said. “There are at least 50 beds there empty now. It makes no sense. Why treat us like animals? Why?”

Among those bedding down on Monday night at the IPO were two teenage boys, whose IPO paperwork says they are 17. A letter to them from Tusla notes they “confirm” their dates of birth but questioned why they had not substantiated these dates further. Tusla was therefore “pausing” their entitlement to “services”, it says, until further investigation.

The teenagers, from Ethiopia and Eritrea, appear young and anxious. A volunteer on Monday brought them to meet a human rights solicitor and register them with the Legal Aid Board. The boys also asked to see a doctor.

A Tusla spokesman said on Monday the agency did not comment in individual cases. “All international protection applicants deemed to be, or claiming to be, under the age of 18, and who are not in the custody of an adult, are referred by Department of Justice officials to Tusla’s Team for Separated Children Seeking International Protection.

“An assessment is carried out by Tusla social workers to assess the eligibility of the applicant for services... If there are doubts that the person referred to the service may be an adult, the benefit of the doubt principle is applied, and the young person is accommodated by Tusla, until the eligibility process is completed.”

Nick Henderson, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council, in an email to Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman described the decision to end the provision of beds as “hugely concerning and... frankly appalling” and urged him to reconsider the ending of the emergency provision.

Following heavy rain on Monday night there was “desperate need” for dry sleeping bags, blankets and coats as well as waterproof tents, said volunteer Roisin McAleer. “Everything is soaked.”

Shortly before 8pm, when a box of 20 sleeping bags were delivered by the Crosscare charity, minor scuffles ensued around the box as men vied to get one. Many were disappointed and pleaded for blankets. Members of the public continued to arrive with items like jumpers, socks, and underlay including yoga-mats and rolls of insulation, as well as food and flasks of boiling water. One woman arrived with a box of tents. When all were taken she left, returning 20 minutes later with more tents,

“These men are being kept alive by charities and the public,” said one volunteer.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times