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Residents moved after gardaí responded to violent incidents targeting asylum-seeker accommodation

Centre residents moved for their own safety due to fears facility could be subject to arson attack

Use of the warehouse-type building to accommodate asylum seekers caused significant anger among locals who complained of not being adequately consulted. File photograph: Getty Images

Sat Aug 27 2022 – 05:00

Gardaí responded to violent incidents at a temporary asylum seeker accommodation centre on three occasions before officials decided to move on the residents for their own safety.

About 45 international protection applicants were moved from Citywest into the former Covid testing centre on North Road in Finglas on Tuesday, August 16th, at short notice due to the increasing pressure on the asylum-seeker accommodation system.

Use of the warehouse-type building, which was previously a furniture store and an amusement centre, caused significant anger among some locals who complained they had not been adequately consulted.

On late Tuesday evening last week, after the first group of asylum seekers had been moved in, a group of people forced their way into the premises, filmed asylum seekers and expressed anger at the use of the building, sources said. The group allegedly promised staff they would return.

The incident was reported to gardaí who visited the centre. On Thursday evening windows of the building were smashed in from the outside by a person armed with an iron bar.

Following discussions the following morning, it was decided to move the asylum seekers back to Citywest that day due to fears for their safety, including fears the centre would be subject to an arson attack.

Officials had been informed that organised criminals were suspected of being involved in the intimidation attempts in an attempt to curry favour with the local community. Officials also believe a bus, which brought the asylum seekers back to Citywest on the Friday, was followed by at least one car.

The centre was the subject of several protests during the three days it accommodated asylum seekers. It also attracted the attention of several far-right activists. “You are going to get ran out of here,” one long-time far-right activist filmed himself shouting outside the centre.

A larger protest was also held outside the centre on the following day. Some protesters then went to another premises in the industrial estate they believed had been earmarked for asylum-seeker accommodation.

There is no indication the protesters were involved in the violent incidents reported by officials.

A Garda spokesman confirmed members visited the premises on three occasions last week. The first visit related to “an incident of criminal damage” involving a small number of people on Tuesday. Gardaí visited again on Wednesday in response to a public order incident but no formal complaint was made. They visited again on Friday in response to another criminal damage complaint.

“No arrests have been made. Investigations are ongoing,” a Garda spokesperson said.

‘Closer consultation’

A spokesman for the Department of Integration said residents have been temporarily moved from the facility “in the interests of the welfare and safety of those residing there” following several incidents.

He said the use of the facility has been paused “to allow for closer consultation with the local community and local representatives”.

Asylum-seeker accommodation continues to come under extreme pressure. There are now about 15,000 people in the system compared to about 7,000 this time last year. This is in addition to the 35,000 refugees who have arrived from Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February.

The large increase in new asylum seekers and a shortage in appropriate accommodation venues have forced officials in the department to scramble to find temporary premises at very short notice, which means they are often unable to adequately consult local communities.

It is understood department officials are working on a new protocol which will allow them to consult communities at short notice before opening asylum-seeker accommodation in an area.

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