Refugees fear homelessness as direct provision centre closes

‘I don’t know where we are going to go,’ says Ayo Adeshin, a single mother of three

Over 20 asylum-seekers granted permission to remain in Ireland are at risk of becoming homeless when a direct provision centre in Dublin closes on Wednesday.

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More than 20 asylum seekers granted permission to remain in Ireland are at risk of becoming homeless when a direct provision centre in Dublin closes on Wednesday.

Watergate House, a privately-run direct provision centre on Ushers Quay, houses 52 people. Nearly half of those living in the centre have been granted refugee status, but are still living there due to difficulties finding private accommodation.

On April 16th, residents were informed the centre would be closing, and those still in the asylum process would be transferred to other centres across the country.

Some 23 individuals with refugee status were told they would not be moved to another centre and were referred to De Paul, a charity that assists people at risk of homelessness.

The Department of Justice’s Reception and Integration Agency, which runs the direct provision system, recently wrote to the residents with refugee status, saying they were “aware of the difficulties in sourcing alternative accommodation.”

The correspondence, seen by The Irish Times, offered residents “emergency accommodation” on a temporary basis at Bridgewater House direct provision centre in Co Tipperary. The letter concluded by wishing residents “every success” in their move out of the asylum system.

Permanent housing

Ayo Adeshina (26) is a single mother from Nigeria with three young children, who has been living in Watergate House for three years. She received refugee status in 2015, after eight years in direct provision, but since then has been unable to find permanent housing.

“I don’t know where we are going to go if they put us into homeless . . . Watergate is better than sleeping on the streets,” she told The Irish Times.

After she was informed the centre was closing down, she contacted the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, which helps to place families into emergency accommodation. She said she was told her family “might end up sleeping in a police station”.

“I don’t know what to do on Wednesday. I don’t think I’m going to leave this place until I find suitable accommodation,” she said. Several large suitcases full of their belongings are packed in her room but Ms Adeshina said she could not afford to put them into storage.

“It’s not easy to raise children in direct provision . . . I came to this island to live a better life,” she said.

Finite resources

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said a decision was made “not to renew the contract for Watergate House upon its expiry on 20th June”. The background to the decision was to secure “best value” for the finite resources available, he said.

A spokeswoman for De Paul said the charity are working with residents who have refugee status “to secure more long term and suitable housing”.

There are 520 people living in direct provision centres who have status to remain in Ireland, but are unable to move out due to difficulties securing housing, according to department figures from March.

Ellie Kisyombe is a resident in the centre still seeking asylum who has been a prominent campaigner to end the direct provision system.

Ms Kisyombe has been living in direct provision for nine years, and was informed she was being transferred to Carroll Village centre in Dundalk, Co Louth. Her requests to be placed anywhere in Dublin, where her son goes to school, were denied due to the lack of space in other Dublin centres.

She co-founded Our Table, a pop up café project featuring food from different cultures that has been run in the Project Arts Centre and Christ Church Cathedral. The initiative employs people who have moved out of direct provision, and Ms Kisyombe fears both her business and her activism will be curtailed if she is moved to Dundalk.

“I’m helping people to integrate in Ireland. I’ve contributed to Ireland. Life as an asylum seeker is hard enough… I want them to stop imposing things on me,” she said.

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