November 27, 2022

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A group of asylum seekers in Cork have sought assurances from the government agency responsible for their accommodation that they will not be evicted now that they have been granted permission to work in Ireland.

Asylum seekers from the Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre in Cork held a protest outside Cork City Council offices last week to highlight their plight, amid what they claim were threats to evict them from the 300-resident direct provision centre.

Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre resident Asad Muhmad explained that their fears over eviction from the centre arose after a meeting in May with a representative from the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) which oversees accommodation for asylum seekers.

“There are about 60 of us at the Kinsale Road centre who have been granted what is called Garda National Immigration Bureau Stamp 4 – it permits people to stay in Ireland for a specified period and allows people to take up employment or set up a business,” he said.

‘Verbal threat’

“Those of us at Kinsale Road who have been given the GNIB Stamp 4, we had these meetings in May, each of us on our own, with an IPAS official who told us that we could be facing eviction as they needed the accommodation because they were bringing in more people to the centre.

“Nothing was given to us in writing – it was simply a verbal threat of eviction. And when we asked what would happen if we were evicted, he told us that they would move us into emergency accommodation. But we are already in emergency accommodation so it is quite confusing.”

According to Mr Mahmud, who was forced to flee his native Pakistan seven years ago after his activism as a lawyer brought him to the attention of the authorities, he and his wife Zoya and the other affected asylum seekers cannot afford to pay for accommodation because of soaring rents.

“I am working two jobs here – I am full-time in security and am also working part-time in B&B administration – a lot of the people with the GNIB Stamp 4 are working but they are basic jobs with just basic pay plus there is very little accommodation to rent so prices are exorbitant.

“Landlords are looking for rents of €2,000 a month or more and, if we were to pay that, we would have no money left for the other necessities of life. And the other problem is that many of the residents here are single men and there are very few single bedroom places available to rent.”

To highlight their plight, Mr Mahmud and about a dozen other residents at Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre protested outside Cork City Council’s housing department last week and met a number of councillors.

General problem

“The councillors were positive towards us though they pointed out that housing or the lack of affordable housing isn’t just a problem for asylum seekers but is a problem nationwide. But they were positive and some promised to get it raised in the Irish parliament,” he said.

Responsibility for IPAS rests with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

In a statement, the department denied that anyone had been told they might be evicted.

It said IPAS had a specific transition team, who worked in collaboration with DePaul Ireland, the Peter McVerry Trust, Department of Housing officials, local authorities and the City and County Management Association to collectively support residents with IPAS status accommodation.

“A member of this team, together with a Peter McVerry Trust support worker, held a clinic (at Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre) on May 3rd and May 4th to ensure all households had an opportunity to meet and discuss their housing options,” the statement said. “Once a household is granted status, their accommodation will be under constant review to ensure that the needs of those still in the international protection process are met. At no time was anyone told they would not be accommodated by IPAS.”

According to the statement, those who have been granted the GNIB 4 Stamp have the same housing entitlements as anyone else and are supported to register with a local authority and – if required – to use the housing assistance payment to secure alternative accommodation.

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