A WAR of words is raging over a video that was circulated online over the weekend showing ten beds in one bedroom to accommodate asylum seekers at the East End Hotel in Portarlington.
One resident secretly recorded the 29-second video, which claims to show ten beds in one of the hotel’s bedrooms.
The hotel is one of a number which provide short-term accommodation to international protection applicants while places are being sourced in dedicated accommodation centres. It provides accommodation for 71 asylum seekers in 19 bedrooms on an emergency basis.
When first alerted to the video early on Saturday morning, minister for justice Charlie Flanagan expressed his concern and sought a report on the matter.
At that time, he stated: “There are clear standards in respect of accommodation that should be upheld and complied with at all times.”
Later in the day, his department issued a formal statement saying it had been informed by hotel management that “a number of residents moved themselves from their assigned rooms into the room shown in the video. The footage circulating appears to have been staged and the residents involved have been asked to return to their allocated rooms.
“The department has been informed that this video does not represent the reality at this facility.”
It stated that no room being used by the department has more than six people in it.
Reacting angrily to the department’s statement on Sunday evening, the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) said: “We are appalled by the conduct of both the Department of Justice and Equality and the management in the East End Hotel, who claimed that the ten beds in the room were staged by the asylum seekers. We are deeply concerned by the uncaring attitude displayed by the Department of Justice and Equality in the handling of this matter.”
Yesterday (Monday), local Sinn Féin councillor Aidan Mullins said that he was not surprised at the video.
“What I am surprised at is the department saying that this is fake news.”
Asked if he had been to the hotel to see what the sleeping arrangements were like, he said: “I was in the hotel last October and took my own video recordings of the conditions, which were published in a national Sunday newspaper. There were ten beds in one cubical, ten in another and in the ballroom they were constructing a unit to accommodate 15 beds in it. None of them had windows. When it was operating as a hotel, it had no more than eight or ten bedrooms in it. But now they’re just cramming them into fabricated plasterboard containers, like sardines in a tin. When I reported this to the department, they told me that conditions in the hotel were not breaching the Housing Act.
“If you were to go in today, there’d probably be no problem regarding bed space because 30 or so of the people were moved out last week into direct provision centres, so the numbers would probably be down. But they go up fairly quickly with new arrivals, too,” concluded cllr Mullins.