There were suitcases on the ground outside the International Protection Centre in Dublin, despite a message to would-be asylum seekers that they should stay where they are if they are safe and not come to Ireland due to pressure on the system.
The centre is normally the second stop for people seeking international protection when they arrive at Dublin Airport. The first stop is Citywest, where they usually receive temporary accommodation before being moved on, but that facility is full.
The Department of Integration posted updates on its Twitter and Facebook feeds warning international protection applicants that there would be no accommodation when they arrive in Ireland.
The warning came too late for South African man Isaac Zwane, who arrived on a connecting flight from Qatar on Thursday. Police and immigration sent him straight from Dublin Airport to the International Protection Centre.
Mr Zwane said he was not aware of the absence of accommodation and faced an indefinite period of homelessness. He chose Ireland because he had heard it was a friendly country. “I came because of a family issue. I ran away from them.”
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He conversed in Zulu with Zibusiso Moyo from Zimbabwe and fellow South African Sibongiseni Malu, who are in the same boat as him. Mr Moyo and Mr Malu arrived on the same flight from Germany on Tuesday. They were given a place to stay on Tuesday night, but then told on Wednesday when they visited the centre that there was no accommodation for them.
When they got to the centre, their papers were processed and they were given blue cards (temporary residence certificates), but they were told they would have to find their own accommodation. They went to the Irish Refugee Council offices on Thursday morning, but were told the same thing.
They said they were given a €20 voucher for food, but were not provided with blankets or warm clothing. “We came here and tried to check if they [workers at the centre] could help us. They showed us an email and told us to email for accommodation. There was no response. They told us there was nothing else they could do for us. We are in a very difficult position. We will have to sleep on the streets again.”
All those queuing outside the centre’s offices on Thursday were single male asylum seekers. According to the Department of Integration the number of asylum seekers without accommodation is now 27.
Una Burns, head of policy at homeless support organisation Novas, said there was no capacity in Dublin homeless services. They provide homeless services for women and unaccompanied minors who have arrived in Ireland. On a recent Monday there was only one bed available for a homeless woman and that was in a shared room with many people.
She said homeless services were full every night and the system could not cope with new arrivals.
[ At least seven asylum seekers told there is no State accommodation available following Citywest closure ]
“It’s going to have a knock-on effect on people experiencing street homelessness. They are just not going to be able to accommodate them because there is absolutely no space,” she said.
“Homeless services would like to help on a humanitarian basis but the capacity is just not there. We can barely cope with the people who are seeking accommodation at present.”
Dublin Simon said it had not seen an increase in the number of asylum seekers bedding down on the streets of Dublin. “However, as with every vulnerable person they meet, our team will do everything in their power to support any asylum seekers they encounter,” it said in statement.
“As an organisation, we believe that everyone has the right to safe, secure accommodation and will continue to support everyone we can, but our services are already operating at and beyond capacity as we grapple with the highest levels of homelessness we have seen in our over 50 years of service provision.”