Dozens of asylum seekers await accommodation after night in sub-zero temperatures

Arrangements being made to provide shelter for International Protection applicants over weekend, says Department of Integration

Dozens of male asylum seekers who slept in tents in sub-zero temperatures on Thursday night remained unsure on Friday evening whether they would be offered a bed amid forecasts of continuing freezing weather.

The Department of Integration said on Friday: “In response to the current extreme weather, emergency arrangements are being made to provide temporary shelter for International Protection applicants over the weekend.”

About 6pm, however, as the offices of the International Protection Office (IPO) in Dublin city centre closed, many men, some as young as 18, were standing outside by their tents, waiting for news about whether they would get a bed for the weekend. Upwards of 100 had slept in tents pitched on pavements and laneways around the IPO offices overnight as snow fell causing some tents to collapse.

Since early December the department’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” according to Ipas.


From about 4pm on Friday, as they waited with their bags asking each other what was happening, rumours were circulating that buses were being sent to bring them to hostels. Some said they had put their names on “a list” to qualify for a bed, but they were unsure who had taken their names.

Others said beds were being provided “by the council”. A spokesman for the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, which provides emergency accommodation for homeless people, said: “The remit for the accommodation of applicants seeking international protection lies with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and any queries regarding accommodation for asylum seekers should be directed to them.”

From about 5pm taxis arrived and left taking four men at a time. Asked where they were going the men said they did not know. A taxi driver said, “to Citywest”.

Among those waiting for news was a man in his 30s from Nigeria. “I have not left this place all day. No breakfast, no lunch, because we wait for the bus. I am hungry. I will be pleased to be out of this. It has been hell,” he said.

Another man from Nigeria said he had been here in a tent for two months. “It was very cold. It is a terrible situation. It was so terrible last night. The tents collapse here.”

One young man, who looked about 14 but said he was 18, from Somalia, said: “I just arrive here yesterday. It is crazy this cold. I slept here last night. You can only imagine it if you feel it.”

Some expressed fear that if they take a bed for the weekend and are then sent back out to the streets their tent will be “destroyed or gone”. One man from Pakistan asked if a toilet could be provided if he has to come back here after the weekend. “No wash, no toilets here. The situation is very bad. I am suffering.”

Irish Refugee Council chief executive Nick Henderson expressed concern that more than 1,000 people could be provided with beds and then have them taken away after a few days. He also criticised the Dublin Region Homeless Executive.

“Saying they have no responsibility at all for these homeless people, it’s gone beyond the point of it being okay to say that. This is a humanitarian crisis unfolding on the streets of the capital.”

A department spokesman said: “The department is experiencing increasing numbers of international protection applicants requiring accommodation with all efforts being made to ensure sufficient capacity is maintained for arriving families including those with children … Prioritisation is given to the most vulnerable individuals.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times

Enda O'Dowd

Enda O'Dowd

Enda O'Dowd is a video journalist at The Irish Times