Refugee and migrant rights organisation Doras has expressed grave concern about moving more than 80 international protection applicants into tents in Knockalisheen, Meelick.
As sub zero temperatures returned in Clare, Irish Refugee Council chief executive officer, Nick Henderson said it is a matter of real concern that refugees find themselves back in this position in Ireland, which is one of the richest countries in the EU.
Notwithstanding the accommodation challenges, he said that placing refugees in tents is not acceptable.
“This is disappointing, given Minister O’Gorman’s assurances in December that tented accommodation would cease to operate,” said Doras CEO John Lannon.
“Less than four weeks later they’re back in operation. As a result, it’s very difficult to be optimistic about the government’s response to the need to provide stable and safe accommodation for refugees.”
“We’ve seen the tents. They’re cold and damp. People have to go outside to get to the toilets. They certainly don’t meet people’s basic needs. And it’s quite unreasonable to put people in such conditions, especially people who have health or other vulnerabilities.”
“Knockalisheen doesn’t have the capacity to deal with the additional numbers. There aren’t even enough laundry machines or dryers. This means that every asylum seeker living there are affected by the increased numbers.”
“In particular, the impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of people in the tents is huge. They tents are not suitable accommodation at any time but in winter they can become quite unbearable.”
“When people were moved into the tents at Knockalisheen last September they were told it would only be for a few weeks, and yet they were still there when the temperatures hit minus five degrees in December. We hope that people are moved to more appropriate accommodation within a matter of days. They also need to be provided with regular information and not left in a state of limbo, not knowing what lies ahead for them.
“And anybody identified as being particularly vulnerable needs to be moved out immediately. The use of tented accommodation cannot become a new norm or in any way acceptable as a means of accommodating asylum seekers,” said Mr Lennon.
Last December, Deputy Cathal Crowe criticised the use of tents to accommodate refugees in Meelick.
“I think it is inhumane to have people living in tents during this cold weather. I don’t think it is right at any time of the year to have people sleeping in tents whether they are homeless or refugees. It is just wrong.”
The Department stated it will endeavour to ensure that the use of tents at Knockalisheen is a short-term measure but in the context of the accommodation shortage, the priority must remain on providing shelter.
Since the 1st of December 2022, DCEDIY has brought 1,352 new spaces into use for the accommodation of IPAs.