Situation at asylum office refugee camp “deteriorating rapidly” say volunteers

Over a hundred asylum seekers are sleeping rough outside the International Protection Office, with food and supplies scarce, forced to defecate in the road beside their tents

Volunteer activists have warned that the situation at a makeshift refugee camp outside the International Protection Office (IPO) is “deteriorating rapidly” as hundreds of asylum seekers were turned out of emergency shelter after the weekend.

Independent volunteers assembled at the IPO yesterday evening to provide food and other necessities to those sheltering in a growing cluster of tents and sleeping bags.

Scores of tents line the laneway of Grattan Court, some covered over with tarpaulin to keep out the rain, while many simply stand soaked through with the rain that continued to pour all through the night. Several hands were raised as a volunteer called out to ask how many were without tents or sleeping bags.

Photo by Rory Chinn for Trinity News

Following unexpected snow and ice at the weekend, the Department of Integration arranged for temporary emergency accommodation to be provided “due to the current extreme weather”. However, homeless refugees were turned out of the temporary shelter on Sunday, despite near-freezing temperatures and heavy rainfall throughout the night.

According to the government, over 1,600 “eligible” males have applied for international protection since the beginning of December. Just over a quarter of these have been offered accommodation, with 1,159 still awaiting an offer.

Eli, who was helping volunteer efforts at the camp yesterday night, told Trinity News: “Our understanding is that people were temporarily housed in a few different locations and some people were sent back here on buses, some people were just kicked out of their accommodation and had to make their own way back here.”

With around 50 asylum seekers already crowded into the cramped space, volunteers said they were potentially expecting over a hundred more.

Léna, an unofficial coordinator, said that after being taken by bus to temporary accommodation in Dundrum, one group had been left to find their own way back after just one night, despite having originally been promised two.

“[The following morning], no bus arrived and they were told to find their own way back to the city from Dundrum in 2°C, many with little clothes and no money. One man walked all the way back in that condition.”

“There’s insufficient tents, insufficient dry clothes, sleeping bags, blankets,” Eli added.

A makeshift toilet shared by around 100 men. Photo by Rory Chinn for Trinity News

Sanitation is also a significant problem at the site, with migrants forced to urinate and defecate on the ground in broad daylight.

As Trinity News reporters arrived at the scene, volunteers were speaking to paramedics as an asylum seeker was being put into an ambulance with apparent gunshot wounds which he had received before arriving in Ireland.

The camp includes asylum seekers who have arrived from several countries, including Afghanistan, Somalia, Turkey, Pakistan and Palestine. Almost all are single men, with priority being given to children and families for state-provided accommodation.

As a Garda van rolled through the laneway, the crowd gathered around the open flame grill which had been set up by volunteers, fearing their only source of warmth and hot food would be ordered put out. The van proceeded after minimal interaction as refugees breathed a sigh of relief.

Police had not been as passive in other countries, according to Mary, a volunteer who had spoken to refugees about their passage to Ireland.

“When they were in Bulgaria, the police there were treating them awfully… their hands were getting broken.”

In another encounter, border police allowed guard dogs to bite the legs of the asylum seekers, Mary said.

“They came through pretty traumatic experiences to get to what they thought would be a safe place, but the government [are failing to provide that].”

The arrival of a Garda van into the cramped location. Photo by Rory Chinn for Trinity News

Most asylum seekers themselves were reluctant to speak to journalists, even anonymously, with some saying they were “too nervous”. Nonetheless there was a social dynamic to the group as they spoke to one another in various languages, as well as conversing with volunteers.

Those who were volunteering at the scene did not belong to any official organisation. “It’s just a disparate group of activists,” Eli said. “There’s like a WhatsAppchat and stuff goes out, we come down. We’re just all trying to coordinate some type of support.”

He was direct in placing the blame for the situation on the government: “This is completely the government’s failure. The government needs to be providing these migrants and asylum seekers with places to stay. It’s not safe here and increasingly unsafe because of weather conditions.”

He added that far-right groups also pose a threat to the safety of those sheltering at the camp, recounting “a couple of times” in which a person has come to the area with an aggressive dog.

“People are facing that threat as well.”

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) have launched a donation drive for refugees sleeping rough outside the IPO, and are collecting tarpaulins, hats, socks, umbrellas, gloves, sleeping bags and clothes in the SU Kitchen in House 6.

David Wolfe

David Wolfe is a Junior Sophister student of History and Political Science. He is the current Social Media and Managing Editor of Trinity News, having previously served as News Editor, Assistant News Editor and copyeditor.