Northern Ireland

Government must be stronger in dealing with asylum seeker camps – TD

An encampment has formed on the banks of the Grand Canal in Dublin.

Tents have been pitched along a stretch of the Grand Canal
Tents have been pitched along a stretch of the Grand Canal (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Government must be stronger in dealing with makeshift encampments of homeless asylum seekers, a Fianna Fail TD has said.

James O’Connor also called for gardai to be deployed to check points on the border to deal with a reported increase in migrants entering from Northern Ireland.

His comments came as the latest tented encampment in Dublin, on the banks of the Grand Canal, grew significantly in size over the weekend.

More than 70 tents were pitched in lines on both banks of the canal in the area around the Mount Street Bridge on Sunday.

The encampment grew over the weekend
The encampment grew over the weekend (Brian Lawless/PA)

Volunteers delivered bottles of water and food to the migrants during the day.

The area is close to the International Protection Office (IPO) on Mount Street, from where more than 200 asylum seekers who had been living in tents on footpaths were moved on Wednesday.

Those men were taken from the Mount Street camp to facilities at the Citywest hotel in Dublin and Crooksling in Co Dublin.

Mr O’Connor raised concerns that another camp had sprung up so quickly. He said Ireland was increasingly being seen as a “soft touch” in relation to migration.

“What’s happening on Grand Canal dock, and in Mount Street indeed, it’s completely unacceptable to me as a government TD and I think the Government needs to be stronger in dealing with this,” the Cork East TD told RTE Radio One’s This Week programme.

Dozens of tents have been pitched by asylum seekers
Dozens of tents have been pitched by asylum seekers (Brian Lawless/PA)

“There’s no shame in saying that, in providing appropriate accommodation, I think buying up hotels and B&Bs across the country for the purpose of providing asylum accommodation, in my view, is no longer appropriate and we’re seeing the increase in tensions – attacks on politicians’ homes, protests that are getting out of control in certain parts of the country, and this to me is a huge, huge concern.”

Mr O’Connor said there was a need for larger accommodation centres in places like Dublin Airport and in the border area.

Tensions between London and Dublin have increased in recent days after Justice Minister Helen McEntee claimed there had been an upsurge in asylum seekers crossing the border from the UK into the Republic of Ireland after the passing of the Safety of Rwanda Act at Westminster.

The Irish Government has made clear it does not intend to deploy gardai to the border to monitor the issue. Mr O’Connor urged a re-think.

“I would be quite forthright that we do need to see a further rapid expansion of border policing around migration,” he said.

“This is something that I feel is not being done sufficiently and I do feel that we need to take the bull by the horns here and address it because we have to look after people that come here, but we do need to acknowledge that there is a tipping point where we can’t do that any more.”

Two people sit outside one of the dozens of tents
Two people sit outside one of the dozens of tents (Brian Lawless/PA)

He added: “What is the alternative? That is the question.

“Are we going to leave it (the border) unpoliced and allow further encampments around cities in Ireland and towns in Ireland increase.

“I think it’s about sending a signal from Ireland that we’ve taken over 100,000 people from both Ukraine and from many other parts of the country of the world in terms of economic migration, and refugees for other reasons.

“And I feel that we have now done our bit as a country.

“We are 5.4 million people here, we’ve taken an enormous share internationally and that’s something that needs to be acknowledged and address the issues in constituencies such as my own and others that haven’t been properly resourced to deal with these challenges, particularly in schools.”

When the tented camp was dismantled on Mount Street, the area around the IPO was cordoned off.

More asylum seekers gathered at the office on Thursday but were told the authorities were at that point not able to provide them with accommodation.

A man sits outside one of the dozens of tents
A man sits outside one of the dozens of tents (Brian Lawless/PA)

A number of homeless migrants subsequently pitched tents in a private park in south Dublin on Thursday. However, those men left the area on Friday.

Later on Friday, Taoiseach Simon Harris defended the Government’s handling of the asylum seeker accommodation issue.

He said “makeshift encampments” on public roads and footpaths were illegal, and “never the solution”.

“It’s also not in the interest of the people who are sleeping in those tents, people who don’t have access to proper sanitation,” he said.

Mr Harris added: “We work at this every single day but I need to be clear and honest with people coming to our country, we are doing our very best in very difficult and challenging circumstances to provide accommodation.

“But accommodation isn’t always readily available but we are keeping working at it day by day.

“The conversation about migration can’t just be one about accommodation, because no matter how much accommodation you have, if it’s just a conversation about accommodation, accommodation will fill.

“It also has to be a conversation about faster processing times, about efficient and effective systems.”