‘Hopeless’ hundred in Direct Provision face third night of tents in sub-zero conditions

Heating system expected to dip below -4 at Knockalisheen, Co Clare, on Sunday night

Around 100 international protection applicants living in tents at a Direct Provision centre in Co Clare were facing into their third night of sub-zero temperatures on Friday night, as efforts to find alternative accommodation for them were under way through the day

Outreach workers in contact with the residents, all adult men, said a sense of “hopelessness” was beginning to set in amid poor conditions, though some were informed that they would be moved out of the tents in the coming days.

With temperatures expected to dip below minus 4 degrees at Knockalisheen Direct Provision Centre on Sunday night, the heating system for the tents is understood to have malfunctioned on a number of occasions in recent weeks.

Of 103 residents, six were moved to alternative housing on Friday, with others due to follow in coming days, the department responsible for the issue told the Irish Times.


Amid accommodation shortages during the summer, three tented facilities were opened at Knockalisheen to accommodate growing numbers of international protection applicants.

The tents were intended as a temporary measure. However, asylum seekers have remained there since early September.

Local Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe said it was “inhumane” to have people living in tents for such a long period, “particularly so” during the current sub-zero temperatures.

“I have grave concerns. These tents are not appropriate accommodation, certainly not in winter months,” he said. “I understand that more than 100 people are living in them, and I would consider that during wintertime, it is inhumane to have people in tents.”

John Lannon, of migrant rights group Doras, told The Irish Times that a number of the men living in the tents contacted him on Friday afternoon to say they had been informed that plans were under way to move a number of them into more secure accommodation.

“It is not clear how many are moving, but from our point of view we are pleased that the movement of people from the tents in Knockalisheen is getting under way, and we hope places will be found for everybody before too many days pass.”

It is understood some of the men have had to seek medical attention for respiratory conditions and have complained to doctors about not being able to sleep in the makeshift accommodation. Each of the tents can house eight beds, but there is no room for any furniture, sanitary facilities or storage, The Irish Times understands.

The asylum seekers are using the Knockalisheen Accommodation Centre toilet facilities at night and are storing their personal belongings in plastic bags to prevent them from getting damp.

Mr Lannon added: “There’s a sense of hopelessness setting into the men and it has a negative impact on their physical and mental wellbeing; there is no privacy or personal space, and it is extremely cold and wet if they have to go outside to go to a toilet, at any time, but particularly at night.”

Eugene Quinn, the national director for the Jesuit Refugee Service, runs a regular outreach clinic at the Knockalisheen facility. The tented accommodation falls “far below” the State’s basic responsibilities under the EU Reception Conditions Directive, he said.

“There have been ongoing complaints about the cold. The heaters have only worked intermittently, there has been a big issue with that. The heaters have been working and then just stopping”.

“A lot of the men have complained about respiratory issues and many of them have had to see the doctor with various medical issues arising from living in a tent. . . The basic living conditions in the tents are just not fit for purpose.

The Irish Refugee Council described the situation as “appalling. Chief executive Nick Henderson urged the Department of Equality to “immediately move people to appropriate accommodation”.

Bulelani Mfaco, a resident at Knockalisheen Accommodation Centre and a member of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (Masi), said many of the men in the tents have enrolled in language classes in nearby Limerick city, and would like to stay in the area if more suitable accommodation was available.

“The men in tents are trying to get on with their lives as best as they can, but the problem is that they don’t know how long they’re going to be left in the tents and, when they are moved, they have no idea where they will be moved to,” he said.

A spokesman for the Department of Equality told the Irish Times that due to “significantly increased numbers of arrivals in the context of accommodation shortages”, it must “consider all offers”. He added that six International Protection applicants were moved yesterday, and the department is working towards finding alternative housing for “remaining” applicants in the coming days.

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson is a reporter for The Irish Times