Video of 10 beds in room not staged, insists asylum-seeker lobby

Video of direct provision centre appeared to show row of beds in room with no windows

Video footage from inside a former Portarlington hotel housing asylum seekers showing a room with ten beds and no windows “appears to have been staged” the Department of Justice has claimed.

 

A group representing asylum-seekers has rejected the suggestion that a video showing a room with 10 beds and no windows in an emergency direct provision centre was staged.

The video, which was circulated on social media on Friday evening, was taken inside the East End Hotel in Portarlington.

In a statement on Saturday evening, the Department of Justice said the video “appears to have been staged”.

Several clips of video footage from inside the room showed a row of beds together, a fire alarm which did not appear to be in working order, and a loose electrical wire hanging from the ceiling.

On Sunday evening, the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) rejected the suggestion the video was staged, and criticised the department and the hotel management.

“We are appalled by the conduct of both the Department of Justice and Equality and the management in the East End Hotel who claimed that the 10 beds in the room were staged by the asylum seekers,” it said.

Independent investigation sought

The group said it had reported the matter to the local fire officer, and would write to the ombudsman seeking an independent investigation into overcrowding in emergency accommodation and direct provision centres.

Footage taken inside the East End Hotel, Co Laois, which has been contracted to accommodate asylum seekers since May 2019, was circulated on social media on Friday evening.
Footage taken inside the East End Hotel, Co Laois, which has been contracted to accommodate asylum seekers since May 2019, was circulated on social media on Friday evening.

“We are deeply concerned by the uncaring attitude displayed by the Department of Justice and Equality in the handling of this matter.”

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan had said he was “concerned at the content” of the video footage from the accommodation. “I have sought a report on this matter from the appropriate authorities,” he said in a post on Twitter on Friday.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Justice later said the “footage circulating appears to have been staged”.

“Hotel management has informed the department that last night, a number of residents moved themselves from their assigned rooms into the room shown in the video,” the spokesman said.

The video footage “does not represent the reality” of conditions in the accommodation, and “residents involved have been asked to return to their allocated rooms,” he said.

Arrangements ‘misrepresented’

“Similar claims were made about the accommodation in the hotel last autumn, and subsequent department inspections confirmed that the accommodation arrangements at the hotel had been misrepresented in a staged video at that time,” he added.

Some 71 asylum-seekers are living in the East End Hotel in 19 bedrooms on an emergency basis, with no more than six people to a bedroom, a spokesman said.

The department has sought to place asylum-seekers in emergency accommodation such as former hotels to alleviate pressure on the direct provision system.

Direct provision, the system of centres accommodating asylum-seekers, has been at full capacity in recent months due to an increase in numbers applying for refugee status in Ireland, and due to difficulties faced by people with asylum status leaving direct provision due to the wider housing crisis.