Provision of tents to homeless asylum seekers by NGOs is in conflict with Government approach, says Tánaiste

There is a ‘fundamental issue of a lack of sanitation and safety around the pitching of tents, in any kind of location’, says Micheál Martin

The Government seems set to engage with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and parts of the State regarding the provision of tents to those seeking asylum and for whom no official accommodation is available.

The Government has faced criticism over an apparent policy contradiction which has seen authorities remove encampments while State-funded voluntary organisations continued to offer tents to unaccommodated international protection applicants.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin on Wednesday acknowledged there was a conflict between the two positions.

He also said that tents were “not a good idea”.

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“I witnessed that during the different phases of homelessness, where many established homeless organisations were not in favour of giving out of tents to homeless because it led to other challenges.”

He said there was also “a fundamental issue of a lack of sanitation and safety around the pitching of tents, in any kind of location within a city or a town”.

Asked in an interview on Newstalk if the provision of tents in Dublin city centre needed to be halted, Mr Martin said: “In respect of non-governmental organisations, they operate to their own ethos and so on but I do think we need to engage with them in relation to their practice.”

The Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe on Wednesday said that Mr Martin had made “an important point that we are going to have to consider“.

“So on one hand, if we don’t make tents available to people, we run the risk of them not having any shelter at all. We run the terrible risk of them be totally open to the elements, unable to secure themselves and run the risk of a level of homelessness that I certainly would not want to see happen.”

“On the other hand, the availability of these tents in the numbers that they have been available, also leads to other problems that we’ve had to grapple with..”

Speaking at a conference in Dublin Mr Donohoe said: “We are trying to avoid people who are coming to our country in terrible circumstances being completely vulnerable. And that’s why the tents are being made available in the first place. But we are going to have to engage with NGOs and with parts of the State to see how that can be done in a way that is safe for all involved.”

Asked about Mr Martin’s comments, Minister for Integraton Roderic O’Gorman said NGOs were “best placed” to determine what services and supports were needed for individual asylum seekers without accommodation.

He said the main focus of Government at present was to tackle the accommodation crisis and move asylum seekers from tents into “modular, rapid-build” acommodation.

Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin also said it was the government’s objective to keep people safe.

“Tented accommodation is neither sanitary nor safe. It is certainly not ideal. That is what we are focused on.”

Speaking to reporters at an event in Dublin, Ms Martin said the situation was very difficult given the “massive” numbers arriving here.

“We are trying to do right by those who are seeking protection,” she said.

There were about 40 tents pitched along the banks of the Grand Canal in Dublin earlier this week.

Meanwhile, An Garda Síochána has rejected claims made on social media that gardaí escorted school children past the tent encampment. In a post on X, it said its community policing unit in Pearse Street assists local schools with their activities.

“In this instance we walked with almost 100 young pupils on a school trip across the city as there were a lot of major junctions and crossings on the route.”

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