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Homeless asylum seekers: ‘They told me there is no space but I see all these empty places in Dublin. There is no mercy’

International protection applicants are arriving to find themselves living on the street. But ‘at least there are no bullets’

At about 8pm on Tuesday night two young men, just in from Afghanistan, arrived at the International Protection Office in Dublin city centre – not to apply for asylum, which they had already done in the afternoon, but to find a space on the pavement to sleep.

Carrying a small bag each, they also had sleeping bags and a tent between them, which they got in the previous hour from the Lighthouse – a charity providing hot meals, clothes and other necessities to the homeless – on nearby Pearse Street.

The men, who are both in their 20s and give their names as Ahmed and Ahmadullah, were helped by other men already here, all asylum seekers. The two arrived on Monday after a “long journey”, having come via the United Kingdom.

Ahmed says they left Afghanistan because there is “too much religion and religious police”. Since 2021 the country has been under Taliban rule, with an “extremely volatile security situation and high risk of terrorist attacks”, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.


It is “too dangerous to stay in Afghanistan”, says Ahmadullah. He said he had a wife and children but the journey was too dangerous for them. He hopes they will join him eventually in Ireland. Ahmed says his parents urged him to leave and make a life in Europe.

They chose Ireland “because Irish people are very loving”.

At the International Protection Office, they have been given a leaflet with a list of organisations providing food, washing facilities and sleeping bags, including the Lighthouse, Merchants Quay Ireland and the Capuchin Day Centre. They get €100 supermarket vouchers and once they get PPS numbers will be entitled to €113.80 a week. This is an increased rate of weekly payment for asylum seekers without accommodation – €75 more than the €38.80 for those with accommodation.

The pair join the growing number of male asylum seekers sleeping on the streets since December 4th when, for a second time in 2023, International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS) announced it would no longer be able to provide accommodation to all seeking international protection, and would prioritise women and children.

The latest figures, published by the Department of Integration on Friday, say there are now 927 male asylum seekers “awaiting [an] offer of accommodation”.

I am not complaining because here at least there are no bullets. No one is chasing me with a machete

—  Samuel (33) from Nigeria

Although the sight of tents pitched around the International Protection Office headquarters had largely gone since summer, it has reappeared since January and by Friday more than 50 are pitched in the vicinity. The men living in them, some as young as 20, describe their conditions as “terrible”.

Wissam (55) from Syria has been in Ireland two months. He is on crutches, his right foot in a cast. He says his foot has damaged bones from being hung from his feet as a form of torture. A doctor at St James’s Hospital has told him he needs surgery but must rest his foot first.

The Department says asylum seekers are assessed for vulnerabilities. Since December, 154 people have been offered accommodation following “vulnerability triage”. Wissam cannot understand how he does not qualify. “I need surgery but sleeping on the street. I messaged my solicitor, IPAS – but still no place, in all of Ireland. All night I suffer here.”

He is a doctor himself, who lost his family in Syria. “I spend €5,000 to get here. It wasn’t easy. I come for hope and now I am homeless. Sometimes I think suicide. They told me in IPAS there is no space in Ireland but I see all these places in Dublin that are empty. There is no mercy.”

Samuel (33) from Nigeria has been here six days. He too got his tent from the Lighthouse. He understands IPAS has to “keep the women and kids off the streets” and is optimistic he will get accommodation. “They said they are working on it. I am not complaining because here at least there are no bullets. No one is chasing me with a machete.”

But organisations advocating for this cohort of asylum seekers are increasingly worried for them.

A case against the State taken by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, arguing the men’s rights to have their basic needs met under European law are being breached, is before the High Court. The UN High Commission for Refugees in Ireland this week called on the UN Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to order the Government to provide appropriate accommodation.

On Thursday about 20 of the men encamped at the International Protection Office protested outside the department. Carrying placards bearing slogans such as “Human rights have no borders” and chanting “Silence is violence”, they call for the “basic human right” of accommodation.

Noting the increasing numbers presenting at Merchants Quay Ireland, project worker David Newell says that although there were “zero” over the summer, 127 new asylum seekers presented in January and 74 so far this month.

“A lot come here thinking we can accommodate them, and we have to explain only IPAS is capable of accommodating them. A lot are very young. They keep asking where they will go to sleep.”

The Irish Refugee Council is now providing weekly clinics at Merchants Quay Ireland and the Lighthouse to help asylum seekers to access welfare entitlements and correspond with IPAS.

Crosscare, which has worked with migrants for decades, has seen more than 300 homeless asylum seekers since January 2nd. Not one has been accommodated, says Richard King, manager of its migrant and refugee service.

He points out they have fewer protections than someone who becomes homeless in Ireland. They have no right to emergency accommodation provided by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive. The rough-sleeper outreach team, funded by the executive and operated by Dublin Simon, is instructed by the executive not to seek emergency beds for this cohort but to “contact IPAS regarding accommodation options”. A spokeswoman for Dublin Simon described the situation on the streets since December as “extremely challenging”.

King says some asylum seekers have found hostel beds for €18 a night, which they can afford for four or five nights a week, sleeping rough two or three nights, or they may “sofa surf” a few nights a week. “Some do have resources but absolutely not consistently. They are erratic or they run out. Their safety nets are incredibly tenuous and this is an incredibly high-risk group. It’s a very poor environment for them.”

The Department insists it is working intensively trying to source accommodation for all asylum applicants amid protests against such plans across the State. These have escalated to arson attacks on buildings earmarked or rumoured for use as asylum seekers accommodation, of which there have been 13 in the past year.

The Department of Justice is taking steps to tighten the asylum process. Two countries – Algeria and Botswana – were this month added to a list of eight regarded as “of safe origin”. The others are Albania; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Georgia; Kosovo; Macedonia; Montenegro; Serbia; and South Africa.

Asylum applicants from these countries will be fast-tracked, and additions to the “safe” list could lead to the removal of up to 5,000 people from the State, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said. Adding Nigeria and Pakistan was considered but discounted.

Such measures will have a deterrent effect among those considering Ireland as a location to seek asylum, says Nick Henderson, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council. And while not accusing the Government of intentionally leaving vulnerable men on the streets, he questions whether all capacity within the accommodation system is being exhausted. He describes images of lines of tents occupied by homeless asylum seekers as having “some deterrent value”.

The sight of tents metres from Sandwith Street, where asylum seekers’ tents were set alight in May, made him worry for their safety. On Tuesday a video of the tents posted on X by a far-right agitator was accompanied by a commentary: “Look at this. We’ve no room in our country. We need to send a lot of these people home ... I believe in mass deportations and you should too.”

Eddie (31) from Somalia, who has been sleeping here since February 2nd, says there have been no attacks, although “some guys come and steal and shout racism”.

“I am professional in my job. I am a barber. If I have opportunity of education, I would love to go to school. I know you guys are very nice, very caring, lovely people. I have faith in Ireland. I am praying for strength. But don’t leave us here, please.”

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