‘Volunteers have reached breaking point’: Activists supporting homeless asylum seekers run out of tents

1,700 male asylum seekers now homeless while women and children being left without accommodation now ‘an imminent possibility’

Volunteers providing food, bedding and clothing to male asylum seekers staying in a makeshift camp outside Dublin’s International Protection Office have reached “breaking point” and say they have run out of funding for tents and sleeping bags.

Activists supporting the estimated 170 men camping out on Mount Street said resources are running out and that the State’s reliance on grassroots organisations and homelessness charities to support homeless asylum seekers cannot continue.

Some 1,700 male asylum seekers are homeless and awaiting an offer of accommodation, an increase of 80 on last week, according to the figures from the Department of Integration. It is understood that some of the latest arrivals are sharing tents with other asylum seekers.

The measures being taken by Government to deal with this issue are “reactive, temporary and ad hoc” and the situation outside the IPO is “now completely unsustainable”, volunteers and activists said in a letter to Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman on Wednesday.


“The volunteers who for four months have organised food, bedding and clothing have reached breaking point,” says the letter, which is to be delivered to the Minister on Friday.

“Similarly, homeless services such as Mendicity, Capuchin Day Centre, Lighthouse and Merchant’s Quay are unable to meet the basic needs of these men. The residents of Grattan St., Madison Court, Grattan Hall, and Grattan Court have an informal refugee camp on their doorsteps, with severe implications for privacy, health and safety,” it continues.

“Most importantly of all, the IP applicants themselves, most of whom have fled war or persecution, are deprived of the most basic dignities and comforts such as shelter, privacy, and access to sanitation. These men are also highly vulnerable to racially motivated assault, and there have been several incidents of assault, theft, damage to tents, attempted arson, and verbal abuse.”

The letter notes the department’s recently announced accommodation strategy but states that housing is needed immediately unless the Government wants to see “male IP applicants simply ‘pile up’ on the streets of Dublin”.

Róisín McAleer, of the Social Rights Ireland group, said those camping outside the IPO, as well as their belongings and bedding, had been “soaked” during recent rainfall.

“They’re trying to dry them and it’s an impossible situation,” she said. “The mental and physical deterioration of the men is very noticeable. I can see people losing weight, I can see their faces are pale and sickly looking.”

The number of Palestinian refugees arriving on the streets of Dublin is also starting to increase, she added.

Ms McAleer said volunteers have read the Government’s accommodation strategy but feel there is “no urgency” in the plan. “We need a deadline for housing these men – that this building will be open by this time and this is the money we have allocated. Because there’s none of the detail in that plan and the lack of detail would make you cynical about the genuine impetus to act.”

Aubrey McCarthy, chair of Tiglin at the Lighthouse, said the charity temporarily ran out of sleeping bags and tents on Tuesday night due to unprecedented demand, but had secured supplies on Wednesday to cover the next few days. The Dublin drop-in centre, which provides hot meals and clothing to the homeless, is now feeding about 500 people a day, up from around 60 a few months ago.

Mr McCarthy said the department had engaged positively with the charity by providing additional funding for homeless asylum seekers, but that “the wet weather has made sleeping conditions crazy and demand for sleeping bags has exploded”.

“Volunteers are coming up to us saying we need more tents and sleeping bags but we don’t have funding to help everyone on the streets of Dublin,” he said. “We’re dealing with human beings and the demand is phenomenal. The weather, the homeless situation and the numbers coming in – this is the perfect storm.”

A department spokesman said “regular meetings” were taking place to “ensure adequate supports are in place for charities facing additional demand on their services” and that plans were in place to “procure further stock” for charities in receipt of Government grant agreements.

Department officials are “working tirelessly” to secure more bed spaces and “is doing all it can to ensure families and children have been accommodated”, he said.

However, he warned of the “imminent possibility” of a “shortage of family accommodation” due to increased arrivals and delays in opening new properties.

Drop-in day services, including hot showers, meals and laundry services, remain available to any asylum seekers living in tents or without accommodation, said the spokesman.

International protection applicants who do secure accommodation receive a temporary increase of €75 to their daily expense allowance, increasing the weekly rate from €38.80 to €113.80 for those who are homeless.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast