Additional accommodation for international protection applicants in a number of locations across the country will be announced by the Government by the end of this week, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys has said.
Ms Humphreys told the Dáil on Tuesday that Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman would be bringing “significant additional accommodation” on stream.
The Cavan-Monaghan TD was responding during Leaders’ Questions, after the Opposition raised the protest at the site of a makeshift refugee camp in a laneway on Upper Sandwith Street in the south inner city.
Dublin Fire Brigade and gardaí responded to a fire at the scene after the demonstration had ended on Friday night.
Ms Humphreys said the scenes witnessed at the weekend were “horrific” and there was an onus on all TDs to condemn such actions unreservedly.
“Burning people out of their tents – those actions do not represent the vast majority of people in this country,” she said.
The minister said the situation the State was facing was “unprecedented”, with over 100,000 people having arrived from Ukraine and elsewhere over the last year.
“There are huge challenges and there is no getting away from that, because what we’re facing is unprecedented,” she said.
“Over 100,000 people, that’s the equivalent of the entire population of Kilkenny. Have we largely managed to find accommodation, yes we have, has it been perfect? No, it hasn’t. Have there been issues? Yes, of course there have been issues.
“Like many other countries, we are doing the best that we can under very, very difficult circumstances.”
Ms Humphreys added that Mr O’Gorman would be bringing further accommodation on stream by the end of this week for international protection applicants.
“I would just say, as with housing generally, funding or political will is not the issue here, we’re pumping billions and billions into housing. We’re doing everything we can to try and alleviate the pressures that we’re currently facing,” she said.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said it was absolutely clear that “politically motivated far-right activists” were in the Sandwith Street area actively spreading false rumours, “stirring up fears and ratcheting up the aggression and the threats against the asylum seekers in the encampment”.
“We need to absolutely oppose that divisive, hate-filled racism,” he said.
The Dún Laoghaire TD said a “very considerable amount of responsibility” for the situation that developed and other situations “lie at the door of this Government and successive Governments” for leaving hundreds of people homeless living in tents and for failing with the “absolutely dire housing and homelessness crisis”.
Labour leader Ivana Bacik said the circumstances in which people are forced to sleep on the streets while awaiting the processing of asylum applications was “shameful” and that the Government needed to do more.
Ms Bacik said the Taoiseach had to ensure that “humanity” was restored to the State’s refugee accommodation system.
The Dublin Bay South TD also said there needed to be “greater co-ordination” among Government departments because there was “still a sense” that the Department of Integration “is left to shoulder, almost entirely the responsibility for housing those who come here to seek refuge and that other departments have simply not been willing to assist and to support, to provide the necessary accommodation that we are that we have a duty to provide”.
Earlier, Tánaiste Micheál Martin addressed the issue of protesters blocking access to former hotel Magowna House on Monday evening where there is total capacity for 69 International Protection (IP) applicants, in order to prevent further asylum seekers being moved there.
“I would ask that that level of engagement and co-operation will take place and that there is no need for the blockades,” he said.
“I think dignity and the human being always has to be centre in our minds when situations like this arise.
“We have to work hard on the communication side of it, in terms of engagement and in terms of clarifying and dealing with any issues or concerns that people may have,” Mr Martin added.