JRS – ‘asylum accommodation at ‘breaking point’

March 28, 2024 in Featured News, News

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Ireland is calling for an emergency response by the Irish Government to avoid a repeat of the shocking, squalid, and unsafe living conditions experienced by 150 asylum seekers, who were recently moved for public health reasons from a tented encampment at the International Protection Office (IPO) on Mount Street.

Eugene Quinn, National Director, JRS Ireland, warned: “It is likely that the unacceptable and shocking living conditions of unaccommodated asylum seekers living in IPO tents will be repeated in new and emerging tented settlements across Dublin with all the associated risks to health and life. Support services will remain unable to meet the escalating demand. Immediate action and a whole of Government response is required to prevent potentially an ever-greater humanitarian crisis from developing on the streets of Dublin and in other cities in Ireland. The time for action is now.”

Since 4th December 2023, IPAS has not offered accommodation to 1399 single males. At the end of January 2024, JRS Ireland was contacted for assistance by a group of 8 asylum seekers who were homeless and were living in tents near the IPO. From that time JRS has supported a rapidly growing settlement of asylum seekers living in tents in the alleys behind the IPO through weekly outreach, accompaniment, and the provision of vouchers to help meet their basic material needs.

In the course of outreach to the tents, JRS found living conditions rapidly deteriorated throughout March, as increasing numbers of unaccommodated asylum seekers joined. There were no toilets, showers, or laundry facilities available for the 150+ men other than those provided in day services of a number of homeless organisations some distance away. Rubbish was piled high and uncollected. Human waste was openly visible in drains and on the streets. This led to an outbreak of a wide range of medical conditions, including highly contagious skin conditions. JRS and other support organisations raised concerns about an emerging humanitarian crisis.

Due to mounting public health concerns on 16 March 2024, 150 men were moved from tents around the IPO to  the former HSE facility at Crooksling. Interviewed on Newstalk about this development, Eugene Quinn, National Director, JRS Ireland said: “This [Crooksling] is effectively a short-term sticking plaster. People have been given access to toilets, shower facilities and food but it is not a long-term solution.  We need a housing-led, whole of Government emergency response.  Short-term accommodation needs to be stood up on State land and longer-term additional State accommodation capacity added and resourced adequately.”

Mr. Quinn added: “We have all been shocked by the living conditions – no toilets, no washing facilities, no laundry. This is an indictment of the political system and the Government’s failure to adequately respond over the last two years.  We have basically an asylum system that is stretched to breaking point. This is a crisis situation.  Nobody is comfortable with what happened at the IPO and the real fear is that it will reoccur.”

The reality in Europe and throughout the world is that asylum applications have hugely increased. UNHCR reported more than 100 million forcibly displaced persons in 2023. The EU received 1 million new asylum applications in the same period. Ireland accounts for 1.5% of the EU’s populations, so is proportionately welcoming its fair share of asylum applicants regionally.

Yet the entrenched national housing crisis and the arrival of more than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees over the last two years has created huge challenges in accommodating asylum seekers, who continue to arrive and seek the protection of the Irish State.

In conclusion, Mr. Quinn re-iterated the JRS Ireland call for action and the need for a whole of Government emergency response: “Vulnerable people are on the move and are crossing borders seeking protection.  This is a consequence of war, conflict and persecution across the world.  The right to seek asylum is a human right and we need to plan for those seeking protection on our shores. The Government must take control and create the conditions that allow people seeking protection to live with dignity. With Ireland’s resources, it is possible to respond in a proactive planned way and not just in a reactive and crisis-led manner. We can and must do better.”

Under the auspices of the ‘No Place to Call Home’ initiative, funded by the Belvedere Sleep Out 2023, JRS will continue to visit asylum seekers accommodated at Crooksling; support vulnerable men living in tents at the IPO and elsewhere in Dublin; and provide outreach to those in precarious living circumstances in State tented facilities, army barracks and other forms of emergency accommodation.