Dublin, Ireland, Dec, 2022 -- A 24-hour helpline has been put in place for international protection applicants who cannot avail of accommodation at the Citywest transit hub, which is closing to new arrivals over Christmas and early in the New Year.
Alternative arrangements are being made both for international protection applicants over the holiday period and for Ukrainian refugees arriving between 23-27 December and 1-2 January.
A spokesperson for the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth said that newly arrived international protection applicants "will be assigned to designated accommodation" via the 24-hour helpline number.
The spokesperson said it was "doing everything we can to avoid a situation where people are going without accommodation".
However, RTÉ News understands that the department is making a contingency plan for "where no accommodation is available," something which has happened twice before.
If that happens, RTÉ understands that newly arrived asylum seekers will be advised to "contact ... on a regular basis" an International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) email address "for the latest information on any available accommodation".
Asylum seekers who were left temporarily homeless in September and again in October when Citywest was closed to new arrivals were advised to do the same thing.
The International Protection Office, which receives newly arrived asylum seekers on weekdays, will also be closed for much of the Christmas period.
It will be only be open on 28 and 29 December before closing again until 3 January.
The door of the IPO will be one of the places that the 24-hour helpline number will be posted over the Christmas period.
The number itself is the same one as is used by Dublin Regional Homelessness Executive, but callers will be offered two separate services, and international protection applicants will be advised to select the "asylum seekers unit" option.
"While acknowledging the work done by IPAS in 2022, it is essential that people have access to the protection process and accommodation during the holiday period," Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said.
"Some people will not have a phone or the English language skills to navigate a free phone number. Translation of notices and proactive identification of people who need particular help will be needed," Mr Henderson said.
A different system is in place for Ukrainian refugees arriving into Ireland during this period.
Newly arrived Ukrainian refugees will go directly to designated temporary accommodation centres and will then be transferred to the Citywest transit hub once it reopens for processing.
Announcing the temporary closure of Citywest to new arrivals over Christmas last Friday, a statement from the department said that state-provided accommodation "is very limited in Ireland at the moment both for Ukrainian Beneficiaries of Temporary Protection and for International Protection applicants" and that this is likely to continue into early January.
The department asked Ukrainian Beneficiaries of Temporary Protection and International Protection applicants who were "in situations of safety not to travel to Ireland, if possible, over the next fortnight and to defer making travel plans to come to Ireland until the New Year".
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, December 26, 2022
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