Hotels in the east being used as temporary direct provision centres
Centres opening around the State to meet ‘immediate and urgent increase in demand’
Exterior of Eglinton Hostel direct provision centre in Salthill Galway. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien
A number of commercial hotels in the east of the country are being used as temporary direct provision centres to meet the rise in demand for accommodation for recently arrived asylum seekers, the Department of Justice has confirmed.
The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) is preparing to open three new direct provision centres in Donegal, Wicklow and on the Leitrim/Roscommon border to meet the “immediate and urgent increase in demand from persons seeking international protection in Ireland”.
So far this year more people have claimed international protection in Ireland than in all of last year, the RIA said, adding that it expected the total number to reach 3,500 by the end of the year. A total of 2,927 applications for international protection were made last year, up from 2,244 in 2016.
Asked to comment on recent reports of asylum seekers being placed in unofficial centres without basic facilities upon arrival in Ireland, a department spokesman said commercial hotels in the east were being used as “emergency accommodation”.
He said the same facilities as those provided in direct provision centres were available in these temporary centres and that there was “no single contract” for this accommodation.
The department also defended its decision to locate a new centre in one of the most isolated parts of the country – the village of Moville on the Inishowen Peninsula in Co Donegal – saying the former Caiseal Mara Hotel was offered for use in response to a call for expressions of interest in January and September for vacant properties.
Direct provision centres are also set to open in the coming weeks in the Grand Hotel in Wicklow town and the Shannon Key West Hotel in Roosky on the Leitrim/Roscommon border. An estimated 100 people will be sent to Moville while 80 will be housed in Roosky and 100 in Wicklow.
Asked to explain the rural location of many of these centres, the spokesman said no Dublin hotels and premises had been offered for use following the call for expressions of interest.
Two Dublin centres – Georgian Court on Gardiner Street and Watergate House on Usher’s Quay – have closed in the past year. The Clondalkin Towers Hotel was also set to close but the contract to run the centre was recently extended to summer 2019.
The total direct provision capacity is 6,051, however, more than 160 spaces are unavailable “due to family configurations”. Some 600 people have already received permission to remain in Ireland but have been unable to leave direct provision due to difficulties in securing housing.
By the end of October there were a total of 5,848 people living in direct provision centres around the State.
Speaking earlier this month, Minister of State for Immigration David Stanton noted how in September there had been a “sudden increase” in the demand for direct provision accommodation and that priority was given to families and other vulnerable people arriving in the State.
In September, the RIA was unable to house 20 people and was forced to refer them to homeless services. However, in October no asylum seekers were referred to homeless services, the department spokesman said.