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Disappointing’ that Ireland once again housing refugees in tents despite commitment last month  

5th January 2023

The Government is now housing 88 international protection applicants in tents, less than a month after Minister Roderic O’Gorman committed this would not happen again.

Gormanston military camp in Co Meath, which was at one stage used to house up to 350 Ukrainian refugees in military tents as an emergency measure. Tents are once again being used for refugees in Knockalisheen in Co Clare.© Desk Prod

On December 11, amid a status yellow low cold weather warning, with temperatures dipping below -5C, a spokesperson for Minister for Children and Integration, Roderic O’Gorman, stated that 83 asylum seekers in Co Clare would be moved to alternative accommodation.

Just prior to that, 10 people had been housed in other alternative indoor accommodation.

However, today it has been revealed 88 people are once again being housed in tented accommodation in Knockalisheen, Meelick, Co Clare, despite comments directly from the minister on December 12.

Minister Gorman told RTÉ’: “We are not going to be using the tents in Knockalisheen again.”

Clare TD Cathal Crowe told Independent.ie: “I don’t believe these are appropriate or humane living conditions in the winter.”

Deputy Crowe added that he was “very disappointed” at the rehoming of the asylum seekers in tents, as this was “contrary to what I’d been assured and what had been said by the minister and his officials”.

“I was glad the decision was reversed [at the time] and I’m very disappointed the decision has been reversed yet again,” he added.

Deputy Crowe said the tents had been installed in a heatwave, and added: “I raised the point, it would be substandard for people to live in tents during the winter.”

He said that the arrival of the tents last summer had been a “retrograde step” for a community that had historically welcomed refugees and migrants.

Related video: Half a century: Ireland marks 50 years of EU membership (Dailymotion)

Deputy Crowe said he had felt some of his comments may have been lost in “political noise” at the time but when he continued to raise the issue, he was relieved he felt listened to.

While the Government and the Irish people had acted in a “commendable” way in welcoming the Ukrainian people, the State now needed to “be mindful of capacity and putting people in tents”, he added.

“When we get to the point of people being accommodated in tents, with howling winds and sub-zero temperatures a couple of weeks ago, the debate needs to broaden to our capacity to provide appropriate care.”

No one “should be sleeping in tents, airports on or on the streets”, he added.

Over 100 asylum seekers had been living at the site for three months up until they were moved in December, when temperatures plunged.

CEO for the Irish Refugee Council, Nick Henderson told Independent.ie: “We are very concerned by the re-introduction of tents.

“In our opinion and experience they do not meet people’s basic needs. We recognise the challenges the State is facing but believe that, with all the power and resources available, there are other realistic options which can be used.”

The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, confirmed there are 88 people residing in tented accommodation but has not responded to queries about their breakdown by age and gender.

A Department spokesperson said it would: “Endeavour to ensure that the use of tents at Knockalisheen is a short-term measure.”

However, the Department added that in “the context of the accommodation shortage, the priority must remain on providing shelter”.

“Nonetheless, the tented options previously in place in Athlone and Tralee will remain decommissioned and will not return to use,” it said.

The Department added: “The war in Ukraine combined with the high number of International Protection applicants continues to put real pressure on the Government’s ability to offer accommodation, and has resulted in the largest humanitarian effort in the State’s history.”

As of the January 2, 2023, Ireland is now accommodating over 71,255 people, the Department stated. This includes over 51,955 Ukrainian people who have sought accommodation from the State and over 19,300 International Protection applicants currently in IPAS accommodation.

The National Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, Eugene Quinn told RTÉ it was “very disappointing to see the tents re-opened so shortly after they were closed and following commitments made by the Minister that they would not be re-opened”.

“It is the position of JRS that tents do not meet the ‘basic needs’ requirement as set out under the Reception Direction and that they fall below the minimum standards required for a person to live with dignity,” he said.

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