Children among asylum seekers sleeping in tents in near-freezing temperatures in Dublin city

Two 17-year-olds say they were denied entry to emergency accommodation in Citywest on Friday despite freezing temperatures

Two children were among about 20 male asylum seekers who slept in tents in near-freezing temperatures in Dublin city centre over the weekend.

Both 17 and from Eritrea and Ethiopia, they said on Sunday they had been told on Friday they would be provided with beds in Citywest but when they arrived their names were not on a list and were refused entry.

They made their way back to the city centre on the Luas. In halting English and very softly spoken, they could not name where they slept on Friday but explained they had got tents on Saturday which they pitched outside the headquarters of the International Protection Office (IPO), sleeping there on Saturday night. Temperatures on Sunday night were expected to fall to two degrees.

“This office on Friday give me blue card and taxi to convention centre west,” said the younger boy. “I gave blue card [to staff at Citywest] and no name on list. They say, ‘Go out.’ Somebody, Somalian black man, help us in metro train. Friday night no tent. Sleep somewhere there.”


They returned to the IPO on Saturday morning. “Saturday this office no working. Sunday no working. A man help us, give two tents. Very cold sleep, very hard,” continued the boy. Asked where they have been getting food they said: “James in Lighthouse,” referring to the nearby charity providing meals to homeless people.

Their IPO paperwork shows one was born in February 2007, the other in August 2006. They said they had come to Ireland two weeks ago on a ship from Belgium, and police had been called. They said they had spent two weeks with a “social worker” in a house in Carlow and had been brought to Dublin on Thursday to make their asylum applications.

Both Tusla and the Department of Children and Integration have been asked for a comment on the teenagers’ situation.

More than 100 men, most of whom had slept in tents in sub-zero temperatures on Thursday night, were provided with beds on Friday night as a “cold-weather response” by the Department of Children and Integration. However, by Saturday about a dozen were back in their tents, with more joining them on Sunday.

In sometimes chaotic scenes outside the IPO on Friday the men were transported by coach and taxis to three locations – Citywest, the former central mental hospital in Dundrum and a facility near the airport.

On Sunday, a department spokesman said: “This was done at a number of locations, some of which were night-time only. The arrangements are emergency in nature and will end today.”

Some men were refused beds once they arrived at accommodation centres, they said. About 20 accommodated at the facility near Dublin Airport had to leave during the day, while others chose not to take the beds as they were so short term and they feared losing their tents.

Up to 100 men, some very young, had been sleeping in tents around the IPO in recent weeks, without access to toilets, running water or rubbish collection. Since early December the department’s International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) has said it can no longer offer beds to any but the most vulnerable male asylum seekers as it struggles to source accommodation.

As of Friday, 1,103 were awaiting an “offer of accommodation”, according to IPAS. Following calls by the Irish Refugee Council and across social media, the department said it would provide “temporary shelter over the weekend as a cold weather response”.

Also at the IPO on Sunday were several men who had been at the centre near Dublin Airport. Two from Sri Lanka chose not to return on Saturday night as it was “too far” away from the city-centre services they depend on for food, washing facilities and to charge phones.

“It is better here because we can take the breakfast and dinner here,” one said. They have been sharing a tent for warmth, but most of their bedding is damp. “When the rain falls it just goes in,” they say. “The only problem is the accommodation. Everything is very well. Irish are very lovely people.”

Chris (35) from Liberia slept at the facility on Friday and Saturday nights despite the two-hour walk back to the city centre.

“I just need help. Not that much, just help to leave this cold,” he says.

As we spoke, a man, who gave his name as Paddy (73) from Blackrock, Co Dublin, approached with flasks of boiling water, paper cups, packet soup, tea-bags and sugar. He was one of several member of the public bringing supplies. “It’s terrible this situation. I see it on the news and it’s bad enough looking at all the awful stuff out foreign and we have these men living like this on our own doorstep,” he said.

Pointing to several empty office buildings on the streets he asked why they could not be opened to “get people out of the cold”.

Nick Henderson, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council, described the decision to close emergency beds for the men on Monday morning as “hugely concerning and . . . frankly appalling”.

In an email to Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman on Sunday night he said: “To put people on to the street, after accommodating them, seems disingenuous.”

Having visited the IPO on Saturday he found tents “sodden and in poor state . . . I strongly urge reconsideration of this decision,” he said.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times