Grand Canal asylum seeker camp ‘dismantled’ with over 160 people taken to ‘robust’ tented accommodation

International protection applicants warned they could be arrested if they return to site, where barriers have been erected after early morning clearance operation

An early morning operation on the Grand Canal in Dublin saw around 100 tents pitched by asylum seekers cleared. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

More than 100 tents that had been sheltering homeless asylum seekers along the Grand Canal in central Dublin since late last week were cleared during a multiagency operation early this morning.

The Government said the encampment “has been dismantled and the area is being cleaned by Waterways Ireland”.

Gardaí, the HSE and Waterways Ireland workers started waking men in their tents, pitched a short distance from the International Protection Office on Mount Street, at around 7am and directing them towards a number of coaches.

The men were handed notices telling them they “do not have permission” to camp by the canal and advising them if they refuse to leave they will be moved on by gardaí. From around 7.15am, tents were being gathered by Waterways Ireland staff to be removed by lorries with grabber claws. The site was cleared of people and tents by around 8am.

Around 100 tents in which people seeking asylum in the State had been staying were cleared from the Grand Canal early on Thursday. Photograph: Kitty Holland

In a statement, the Government said 148 people had been moved to tented accommodation at Crooksling and 15 to the former Central Mental Hospital (CMH) in Dundrum. Some of those who had been staying in tents close to the IPO last week were taken to Crooksling but elected to return to the city centre soon afterward. A number of people who were staying by the canal said they did not want to go to Crooksling as they had already been there.

“Both sites have robust, weather-proof tents,” the Government said. “They have toilets and showers; health services; indoor areas where food is provided; facilities to charge phones and personal devices; access to transport to and from Dublin City Centre; and 24-hour onsite security.

“While accommodated at the sites in Crooksling and Dundrum, residents will receive the same supports as at other IPAS (International Protection Accommodation Service) locations. This includes access to medical care via the HSE social inclusion outreach teams and medical card provision; IPAS customer services team clinics; onsite support from the provider’s staff; and psycho-social and integration support from NGO partners.”

Barriers, similar to those erected at Mount Street last week to prevent tents being pitched, were erected along the canal banks.

A truck with a claw lifting tents along the Grand Canal shortly after International Protection applicants staying there were told they were being moved on. Photograph: Kitty Holland

A significant number of those sleeping by the canal were from Palestine, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. None of those who spoke to The Irish Times on Wednesday were aware of a planned clearance.

However, Taoiseach Simon Harris had promised there would be action “very soon” to address the situation, telling the Fine Gael parliamentary party that issues such as the encampment “will be dealt with”. He had last week said he would not allow “makeshift shantytowns” to develop ahead of the clearance of tents from outside the IPO.

Speaking after Thursday’s clearance operation, Mr Harris said asylum seekers will not be living in tents on the streets of Dublin for prolonged periods due to a new multiagency approach to the issue being pursued. Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman said plans were in train to find offices and other buildings to house asylum seekers but it would be months before these came on stream.

When asked about money being offered to people to “free up” tents, Mr O’Gorman said that at one of the accommodation locations “a sign was put up, indicating that where people felt they could self accommodate, that option was open to them”.

He added: “This doesn’t reflect IPAS policy. The allocation for people who we are not able to provide an offer of accommodation to is €75 on top of the basic rate. This is the allocation that are given to people who aren’t in state provided accommodation.”

There is significant concern at the highest levels of Government about what one source described on Wednesday night as “record levels” of new arrivals as the State is struggling to find extra space. Sources said there were more than 610 new arrivals last week, including families with children – a number that would normally arrive here over a two-month period.

An early morning operation on the Grand Canal in Dublin saw around 100 tents pitched by asylum seekers cleared. Video: Alan Betson/Kitty Holland (, )

A note distributed to people staying by the canal on Thursday morning stated: “Good morning. We are from the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS). We are here to offer all International Protection applicants in this area accommodation. We will need to see your Temporary Resident Card (‘blue card’) and then you should gather your belongings and get on the bus which will bring you to your accommodation. You do not need to bring your tent. It will be disposed off for health and safety reasons. At the accommodation, you will be safe and there will be food and hygiene facilities and IPAS will be able to provide you with support.

“You do not have permission to stay on canal property beside the Grand Canal in Dublin. You are committing an offence. If you refuse to come to the available accommodation, or if you later return to stay in this area you may be removed by An Garda Síochána and you may be arrested and prosecuted.”

Labour leader Ivana Bacik, who represents Dublin Bay South, where the stretch of the Grand Canal is located, welcomed the fact that alternative accommodation “appears to have been found” for the asylum seekers.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Ms Bacik commended local residents and volunteers who had provided support for the people, but said that the situation had been “inhumane and unsustainable” and there was “a lack of joined up thinking” in Government on the issue.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times