Asylum seekers pitch tents in Ballsbridge park after Dublin city centre camp cleared

Up to 15 homeless asylum seekers, who had been staying on Mount Street, told State had no accommodation for them

Gardaí attended a private park in Dublin 4 on Thursday night as up to 15 homeless asylum seekers, told earlier by the International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS) there was “no accommodation at this time”, pitched tents for the night.

The men, from Afghanistan and Somalia, arrived at St Mary’s Church Park on St Mary’s Road in Ballsbridge shortly before 9pm.

All had been sleeping in tents at the International Protection Office (IPO) in recent weeks until it was cleared on Wednesday morning. While some had been provided with shelter on Wednesday night they had been bussed back to the IPO on Thursday morning and told to wait for news of further accommodation offers.

On Thursday afternoon, however, along with scores of other men who had waited for five hours in the belief they would be offered shelter, they were handed letters by staff from IPAS.


“Due to the accommodation shortage within IPAS no further offers of accommodation can be made at this time. We have recorded your details and when appropriate accommodation becomes available, we will contact you by email with an offer,” it stated.

It is understood men without accommodation on Wednesday night slept in the city centre, on the seafront south of the city centre, in churches and with friends.

They were told by gardaí on Thursday afternoon to leave the IPO area immediately.

The men, who no longer had tents after the clearance operation on Wednesday, secured new tents at the Lighthouse charity on Thursday evening. At the suggestion of volunteers not connected to the Lighthouse – most of whom are women living in the Sandymount and Donnybrook areas – they went to a church park on Thursday night. The small park is the property of St Mary’s Catholic Church on Haddington Road.

Two of the women volunteers went to a local supermarket and returned with black rubbish bags for the men, wet-wipes and bottles of water. Another woman arrived with tarpaulin to put over the tents to protect against rain. Several of the men went to nearby Baggot Street and returned with cardboard boxes from shops to use as ground mats.

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As they pitched their tents a number of residents from adjacent roads arrived, some with torches which they shone at the tents, to investigate. The parish priest, Fr Fachtna McCarthy, arrived and spoke to volunteers at about the same time as gardaí from nearby Donnybrook.

Fr McCarthy, having spoken to volunteers and gardaí, said he had “great sympathy” for the men. He agreed they could stay overnight in the park on condition they left by 8.30am on Friday as adjoining primary schools opened. A further concern was that confirmations were due to take place on Saturday and the park would be in use for parishioners’ family photographs.

Gardaí advised they would be patrolling the area through the night. They asked that the men “be respectful of the local residents”. They provided contact numbers if the men had any safety concerns themselves. They said they did not want “the situation to escalate” and asked that the men leave the park before local primary schools opened on Friday morning.

On Friday morning, the men left peacefully without incident. There were no gardaí present as they left the park. A number of locals assisted them dismantling their tents and packing up their belongings.

Immigration changes discussed

Ministers met on Thursday at the Cabinet Committee on Migration to discuss the State’s response to the issue of immigration, where the changes were discussed.

Planning rules around modular builds may be changed to give the State the ability to build a greater level of rapid builds for international protection applicants as well as Ukrainian refugees.

At present, regulations allow the Government to fast-track the development of modular units for Ukrainian refugees. Two Government sources said that this may be extended to include units for international protection applicants and, eventually, students.

Ministers discussed in-depth future plans for accommodation for both refugees and asylum seekers with the Government keen to move to a longer term plan for use of modular accommodation given a recent drop in the number of Ukrainian refugees seeking support in Ireland.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee told the meeting that fast processing times for safe countries has reduced the numbers of people coming to Ireland from those countries by 50 per cent.

An accelerated process has been in place for eight countries since November 2022. Applications from these counties have halved.

She said Georgia was added to the safe countries list when it had the highest number of applicants, pointing out that it is now not in the top ten.

The meeting also heard an update on legislation the Cabinet approved to close the legal loophole following the High Court ruling that the UK could not be considered a safe country. Ministers were told that the new laws would be passed through the Houses of the Oireachtas by June. Ms McEntee said the current situation means a Nigerian who comes to Ireland through the UK will be returned to Nigeria if their application for asylum is unsuccessful.

The Government wants to send a “clear signal” that people coming across the border need to be aware they will be sent back to Nigeria if a negative decision is given.

The committee also heard that there were 513 deportation orders issued up to the end of April. Of these, 186 were removed from the State, including 136 voluntary repatriations

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times