‘It was a 2½-hour walk’: Asylum seekers drift back to central Dublin from ‘miserable’ camp

Roderic O’Gorman denies suggestions that asylum seekers were moved to Crooksling because of St Patrick’s Day

At least 25 tents were pitched back around the International Protection Office on Dublin’s Lower Mount Street early on Sunday, the location cleared of homeless asylum seekers 24 hours earlier.

The Department of Children and Integration said on Sunday 150 men who had been sleeping there had been offered tented emergency shelter at the site of a former HSE nursing home in Crooksling in southwest Dublin on Saturday.

“A small number left [Crooksling] yesterday, with some of those subsequently returning to Crooksling,” said a department spokesman.

Asylum seekers who returned to Dublin city centre, having left their tented accommodation in the Dublin mountains, described the site at Crooksling as “miserable” and “bitterly cold”. They said there was one working toilet at the site, which was “very dirty, very bad”.


One man who remained at the location near Saggart said he decided to stay because there was “nowhere else to go”. There was one toilet between more than 100 men, he said, and six more were “under repair”. Speaking to The Irish Times via text, the Palestinian said there was no working shower on Saturday but noted: “I heard in the morning that one had been activated but I have not seen it yet.”

“It is bitterly cold in the mountain but there is no other place,” he said. “I will force myself to stay. What I know is that I am here safe, away from the wars, killing and injustice in Palestine. I am happy to be in Ireland. I love this country and its people.”

The Department spokesman rejected claims the only toilet was filthy and strewn with rubbish and provided photographs he said were of shower and toilet facilities at Crooksling, in modular structures.

Later Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman said there were 15 toilets at Crooksling as well as six showers and more will be provided in the weeks ahead.

Mr O’Gorman added: “I recognise the site in Crooksling is basic but it is significantly better than the absolute lack of basic facilities that existed at Mount Street.”

He said that he made the decision to move the asylum seekers in light of the “unacceptable situation” at Mount Street, where people didn’t have access to sanitation services or meals and were not secure at night.

For those who returned to Mount Street late Saturday and early Sunday – to find the area had been cleared by Dublin City Council – new tents were provided, some by volunteers.

Mark (29) from Sri Lanka, who arrived in Ireland in mid-February, left Crooksling on Saturday. “They [IPAS staff at Crooksling] gave me a tent and said put [it] anywhere to sleep. It was very difficult.”

He said there was no indoor area and no working toilet. “They told us: ‘We will prepare that toilet. But yesterday, no toilet, washroom, anything. I think [it is] better here,” he said standing at his new tent, pitched in his old spot on Mount Street. “There was no village there, no shop.” He said he walked an hour to the Luas to get back. Looking exhausted and dejected, he said: “I feel so sad.”

Mahmoud, from Palestine via Jordan, said he had been woken in his tent at the IPO at 8am on Saturday. “They ordered us to go to bus without any tents, without anything, just our backpack. We stay at the bus maybe 40 minutes and after that we go to Crooksling. We asked many questions: ‘Where we go?’ They just say, ‘a comfortable place’.

“It was a huge lie they told us. It was just a miserable place. There is no facilities there. It is all under maintenance. Toilet was just one and it was so bad. After seeing the situation there we decided to return back here to Dublin. It was a 2½-hour walk. When we come back here we have no tents. Finally, some people from charity give us a tent.”

Asked what he hopes for he said: “We hope from IPO to get suitable solution because this is not civilisation. They travelled us specially just to hide [the] bad situation here before [the] tourist day. We know that.”

“The city is better because it is nearby every [homeless services] centre to get food, showers.”

Since December the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) said it was unable to provide accommodation to male asylum seekers. A “camp” grew up around the IPO headquarter and by last week, amid outbreaks of illness, pressure on IPAS to find a solution and clear the camp intensified.

Mr O’Gorman said it was “absolutely not” the case that asylum seekers were moved due to St Patrick’s festivities. He said he took the decision to move the international protection applicants as they had been living in “unacceptable conditions”.

He said about 150 people were moved to Crooksling on Saturday and 130 of them spent the night there. “I understand maybe about 20 people left yesterday and would have returned to Dublin City Centre,” he said.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times