Tents cleared from Dublin canal as migrants offered State shelter

More than 100 asylum seekers have been removed from a makeshift camp in Dublin city centre.

The operation to dismantle the tents pitched in a cramped space along the Grand Canal began shortly after 7am on Thursday.

Workers sprayed numbers on around 80 tents as they were being collected for disposal.

The men who had been sleeping rough in the tents were told they would be moved to State-provided shelter if they boarded coaches which arrived at the camp.

The Irish government has said it is not currently in a position to provide accommodation to all male asylum seekers arriving in the country.

The latest figures show there were 1,939 applicants awaiting an offer of accommodation.

The scene at Dublin’s Grand Canal early on Thursday morning (Cillian Sherlock/PA)
The scene at Dublin’s Grand Canal early on Thursday morning (Cillian Sherlock/PA)

Contractors began erecting additional barriers around the site from 5am on Thursday.

More than 90 minutes passed before the international-protection applicants were informed by volunteers they were being asked to move.

The volunteers assisted with the operation as they made efforts to ensure the applicants were awake and packed before the removals started.

Irish Migration
Contractors arrive to clear tents in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Gardai began to arrive at the scene from 6.45am.

The men started boarding multiple coaches to be transferred to other sites at 7am.

Representatives from the health service and Waterways Ireland were also present.

This is the fifth time asylum seekers sleeping in tents have been moved from parts of Dublin city in recent months, twice at the International Protection Office on Mount Street and three times along the Grand Canal.

Irish Migration
The tents were lifted onto a wagon (Brian Lawless/PA)

Hundreds of applicants have been offered State-provided shelter through the operations.

The Government is operating State-provided shelter at multiple sites where it says it has robust, weather-proof tents.

It has said the sites also 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.

Applicants have previously been offered accommodation across sites at Crooksling and the former Central Mental Hospital (CMH) in Dundrum, as well as the reception centre at Citywest.

Irish Migration
The tents were collected from the canal site (Brian Lawless/PA)

During Thursday’s operation, 109 applicants were offered accommodation. Thirteen were offered at place at Crooksling while 96 were offered accommodation at Citywest.

One young man who was offered State-provided accommodation on Thursday said he was fleeing conflict in Somalia.

He added that he has been awaiting an offer of accommodation in Ireland since February.

Speaking to the PA news agency, he said that men at the camp were fleeing conflict.

He also said he believes the move to State-provided shelter is good as there is no access to facilities at the makeshift camp.

Irish Migration
Some of the tents at the former Central Mental Hospital have been pitched on tennis courts and a football pitch (Niall Carson/PA)

He further expressed concern about “misinformation and propaganda” being spread about the men online and in the media.

Olivia Headon, a local volunteer and former aid worker, said she is part of a group of around 50 volunteers who have been regularly visiting the asylum seekers who have been sleeping rough.

“We’re ensuring they’re OK because there are safety concerns.”

Olivia Headon
Volunteer Olivia Headon (Cillian Sherlock/PA)

The volunteers have also been informing the men about where they can access services they need such as food, water and showers.

“We’re trying to be a friend to people who are quite vulnerable and in need,” she said.

Ms Headon said it was a positive development that the particular men who were present during the operation had been offered State-provided shelter.

However, she added: “This isn’t everyone. There are people rough sleeping in other parts of the city, at bus shelters.

“There are people at hostels during the week or on the streets at the weekend.”

Ms Headon said that there are other people who are sleeping on couches but warned this was an “indefinite support system”.

“They will erode as this crisis goes on – and it is a manufactured crisis,” she said.

Ms Headon said the solution was to provide more emergency accommodation on Government land where there are appropriate services and safety for the asylum seekers.

She also called for improved communication from State bodies to those who are rough sleeping.

Additionally, she raised concern about the State’s level of awareness of where the 1,939 rough-sleeping asylum seekers may be staying.

European and local elections
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (Brian Lawless/PA)

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said the international protection system is not properly resourced or staffed.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin, she said: “Clearly, the system is under just the most horrific pressure.

“There has to be emergency measures, there’s no doubt about that.

“I think Government moved very, very slowly to securing safe accommodation with sanitary accommodation for people.”

Ms McDonald also criticised the Government’s communication with communities over accommodating applicants.

“One of the big mistakes that has been made – and certainly we would correct for this – is the failure to have dialogue and a conversation with communities.”

She added: “It was, to my mind, the most damaging mistake that the Government made.”