Tents at Grand Canal to be cleared again as pressure on Government mounts

Asylum seekers to be brought to alternative accommodation in the Dublin area

Tents housing asylum seekers are expected to be cleared from the Grand Canal in Dublin this morning, the third such clearance in recent weeks.

The Government is under increasing pressure about housing refugees,with complaints from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) about “scapegoating vulnerable people”.

The men will be brought to alternative accommodation in the Dublin area, where they will be housed in tents but will have access to food and sanitary facilities. Arrangements were being finalised on Wednesday evening.

More than 500 men have been transferred from the Grand Canal to safer and more secure facilities in recent weeks, officials say.

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Volunteers working with homeless asylum seekers have in recent days been contacting those without accommodation who are not sheltering at the canal, but are sleeping in bus stations, train stations, mosques, churches and in tents in and outside the city centre. They have compiled a list of more than 100 men, to advocate for them with the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) in the hope that they can access shelter on Thursday.

On Wednesday night men arrived at the canal with tents in the hope of being included in any transport to accommodation. Volunteers, who have been providing food and water at the site, were offering tea and coffee and continuing to gather names. The mood was upbeat as several men said they hoped they would access shelter on Thursday.

Senior Government sources say that facilities at Thornton Hall in north Co Dublin, which is likely to house a large tented encampment for asylum seekers, are unlikely to be ready for four to six weeks.

Government has been encouraged by a drop in the numbers of asylum seekers who have arrived in recent weeks. Yet sources stressed that the drop – to about 350 last week, from about 600 in previous weeks – may be temporary, or due to one-off factors. It is encouraging Government, however, to continue with a tightening of enforcement measures against people entering the State illegally, which have seen a sharp increase in Garda checks near the Border and the return of small numbers of people to the UK.

The Government was criticised yesterday in the High Court and by organisations advocating for refugees and asylum seekers.

A group of 30 NGOs, including the Irish Refugee Council (IRC), Focus Ireland, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and medical charity Safetynet, said they were particularly concerned by the plight of almost 2,000 male asylum seekers who remain without shelter.

They said the Government was “punching down” and “scapegoating vulnerable people”, creating a vacuum being filled with misinformation about migrants.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee rejected the criticism by the NGOs saying the Government would “protect those who need protecting ... irrespective of where they have come from”.

But she said the State “had to say no” to people who “genuinely do not need our protection, who are not fleeing war or persecution, who are coming from a safe country or a safe place”.

Meanwhile, in a legal challenge by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission – the State’s human rights watchdog – the High Court was told that a lack of resources “cannot be relied upon” as an excuse for failing to provide asylum seekers with accommodation, the IHREC’s lawyers told the court.

The State begins its defence in the case today.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times