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'Kicked while sleeping' - Homeless asylum seekers recall experience on the streets

Saturday February 25, 2023

By Laura Fletcher

Abdisamad* and Abdiabdile* are from the same country but only met in Ireland
Abdisamad*, Abdiabdile*, Ali* and Arif* arrived in Ireland in the days and weeks since 24 January.

They are among the 224 international protection applicants who remain without State-provided shelter after the Government ceased offering accommodation to newly arrived adult asylum seekers without children.

They are also among the 90 or so who have sought support from the Irish Refugee Council. They are from Afghanistan, Somalia and Sierra Leone.

Abdisamad and Abdiabdile are in Ireland the longest. They both arrived on 1 February and presented to the International Protection Office (IPO) seeking asylum.

"At the IPO we were told just to look for our own accommodations," Abdisamad told me. "So we have been surviving on the streets."

While the two are from the same country, they only met in Ireland.

Abdisamad has better English than Abdiabdile, so he did the talking.

"The most places where you find shelter is at the bus stops, train stations, near public buildings," he explained.

"Sometimes drunken people may disturb you, sometimes while you are sleeping you may be kicked."

While Abdisamad and Abdiabdile speak to me together, Abdisamad was keen to stress that they usually go their separate ways.

He told me that he was aware of anti-asylum seeker sentiment and protests, and that he tries to keep a low profile.

"Once you are a group (people think) you are already a threat, you know?" he explained.

"Everybody is avoiding that scenario; everybody is walking on his own."

Each of the men were given a €25 Dunnes Stores voucher when they were first told there was no accommodation available for them.

Abdisamad said this was "really useful" during the first week, but it was soon used up, and now he is facing into a fourth week as a homeless asylum seeker "without a penny".

Ali has been here for just over a week.

"I went to the IPO to ask for asylum because of the circumstances that drove me away from my country and they told me there is no accommodation for single males and I have to find my way to sleep anywhere," he explained.

Ali* said he only had few items of clothing after he was robbed

He too has been sleeping rough.

"In the night I will find somewhere to sleep, maybe bow my head, but mostly I don't sleep, maybe just for 30 minutes or an hour, but I mostly don't sleep for the whole night because sometimes you would be sitting there and someone will come and chase you away," Ali said.

He told me that this was what happened when he tried to sleep inside a train station one night.

While the weather is getting warmer, Ali said the nights were still very cold and he only had a jacket and a few items of clothing after he was robbed.

"They stole my bag where my things are (as) I was sleeping ... I woke up like an hour later, I didn't see my bag with my clothes, it is gone and I don't know who took it," Ali said.

In the past few days, Ali said he discovered a library in the city where he goes during the day, to "maybe find a book and read" but before that he said he was "just roaming on the street".

Ali said he has met some kind people along the way too, including a woman who suggested he go to the Capuchin Day Centre and a man who gave him €5.

Unlike Abdisamad, Abdiabdile and Ali, Arif had a sleeping bag when I met him on his ninth day in Ireland.

In broken English, he told me that he has tried to sleep in front of the IPO office on Mount Street but "in the morning police come, and (they say) go, go out".

Arif* has been in Ireland just over a week

"One man comes to Ireland for refuge. I lose my country," he says visibly upset. "I come to your country and I'm dead in the road."

Tomorrow it will be one month since the State stopped offering accommodation to some asylum seekers.

At the time, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O'Gorman said the change was due to an acute shortage of accommodation for international protection applicants.

Mr O'Gorman originally predicted that the policy could remain in place until mid-February.

Mid-February has come and gone, and there remains a shortage of accommodation and the policy remains in place.


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