Monday November 21, 2022
Dave Duff and Patricia Conroy, both of East Wall, share the reservations of some in the local community about the arrival of the refugees. Photograph : Colm Kenna / The Irish Times
Residents of East Wall in Dublin attended a protest on Saturday against the accommodation of nearly 400 refugees in a former ESB office block.Residents who spoke to The Irish Times on Sunday and who had attended the weekend protest said they were angry about the arrival of the refugees into their community without notice.
A further protest is planned for Monday.
“All we saw was videos of men being bussed into the area,” said Emma Douglas (26), who was at the protest. “We completely agree with having refugees, but you can’t bang up to 380 people into a community and expect there not to be any adversity.”
While an initial cohort of 80 refugees, all of whom are understood to be men, were moved into the converted office block during the week, it is understood they are to be joined later by women and children.
“East Wall is a very friendly and lovely community and we have a lot of different nationalities,” said Ms Douglas. “It has nothing to do with racism, nothing like that. It is just the unfairness of it, when you look out at the streets, our own Irish people, born and raised in Dublin, and they haven’t got a place to go, whereas they can turn this ESB building into [accommodation] overnight.”
She said that some of the speakers at Friday’s protest had said Ireland “wasn’t really for the Irish any more, but I don’t really believe that.”
Dave Duff, who lives near the former office building, said the local community had security concerns arising from what has happened. “When you have so many young men coming into the area, no one knows who they are or where they are from, of course we have concerns.”
Local people are annoyed because the refugees were brought into the community without notice, said Patricia Conroy, who was also at the protest. “It’s made me very angry ... People are really pissed off.”
Rob Connell, who has been living in East Wall for the past four years, said people were angry because a commercial premises could be converted so quickly to accommodate refugees but the housing crisis hadn’t been solved so quickly. “I can understand where they are coming from, but we have to put the refugees somewhere as well.”
Oke Akpotor, who works in a shop close to the former ESB building, said most of the customers she has spoken to were concerned about so many strangers coming into their community. “The community should have been told before they were moved in,” she said.
Jim Mulligan, who was at the Friday protest, said it was very peaceful and that any community would react the same way when a large number of people were moved in without consultation or information.
“The men arrived first, which didn’t look good, But apparently now it seems the women and children will be following them, and that will probably calm things down a bit.”
Kadar Abdikani (26), from Somalia, is one of those being moved to the new accommodation. He and his friend were being moved from where they were staying, in tents in Athlone, to East Wall Road, two days ago, but were then diverted to Citywest.
“We hear that there was some problem around here, that the Irish people didn’t want refugees to be here,” he said, when he spoke to The Irish Times as he and a Somali friend were on their way to visit friends staying in the new accommodation.
Kadar, who has no family here, said he came to Ireland almost five months ago, and has stayed in Citywest, Cork, and Atlone. “We are struggling to find accommodation.” He left Somalia four years ago, and has been seeking asylum ever since. “Somalia is not a safe country.”
According to information posted online by councillor Janet Horner of the Green Party, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth is to distribute information leaflets to the community in East Wall next week about the decision to provide emergency refugee accommodation in the former office block.
There is capacity in the five-floor building for 380 international protection applicants and while initially eighty single people have been moved in, there will be a mix of men, women and family units eventually in the building, she said.
Residents will be provided with three meals a day and the building will have cleaning and security staff. A contract has been signed for twelve months with Gateway Integration Ltd, which will run the accommodation.
“The occupancy of bedrooms ranges from mainly twin bedrooms, family rooms ranging from four up to six beds per room, to a small number of dormitory-style bedrooms sleeping up to 10 people,” she said. Companies House records show Gateway Integration was incorporated on October 25th last.
In a post on Twitter, the Irish Freedom Party encouraged people to attend Monday’s protest at East Wall. “This new plantation of Ireland organised by this Government and supported by fake opposition party Sinn Féin must end,” it said.