Asylum seeker sleeping rough pleads ‘I’m ready to go into a tent, I’ll take anything’

More than 130 newly arrived asylum seekers could not be offered accommodation due to a lack of spaces with several having to sleep rough on the streets

Asylum seeker Michel Konou

Michel talks to our reporter about his predicament

Alan SherrySunday World

An asylum seeker has said he’s been forced to sleep on the streets for a month because authorities have been unable to find him accommodation following unprecedented demand on the system due to the invasion of Ukraine.

It emerged this week that more than 130 newly arrived asylum seekers could not be offered accommodation for a number of days due to a lack of spaces with several having to sleep rough on the streets.

Last Monday, a group of asylum seekers, many of whom had just arrived into Ireland, tried to sleep outside the offices of the International Protection Organisation, who process applications for asylum seekers, on Mount Street in Dublin because there was no accommodation available anywhere for them but they said they were moved on by security.

As well as new arrivals, asylum seekers who have been here for a number of years have also found themselves sleeping rough due to a shortage of accommodation.

Michel Konou, who arrived in Ireland claiming asylum from Cameroon in 2019, told the Sunday World how he has been homeless since August 5 and authorities have not been able to accommodate him.

He has been staying in various accommodation centres and hotels since arriving in Ireland and most recently had been staying with a friend in Cork on a temporary basis but had to move out on August 5 as his friend had family coming over to live with him and didn’t have space.

As a result, Michel has been sleeping rough in Cork and Dublin for over a month as he waited to hear back on accommodation.

“Right now, I’m ready to go into a tent. I’ll take anything.

“I was on the streets in Cork. I was sleeping in Fitzgerald Park on a bench. I had back pain. I didn’t know I’d be there for a month. I was expecting something every day but it became a long month. I decided to come to Dublin last Monday. My hopes were just gone.”

He has been in constant contact with International Protection Accommodation Services who source accommodation for asylum seekers but they haven’t been able to find anything for him.

MIchel said he is struggling living on the streets.

“I have fungus on my feet because of being homeless. You never take your shoes off and with the damp it causes problems so it’s difficult. Right now, being homeless means a lot of things. People look at you in a certain way, you’re vulnerable. People see you walking around with all these bags. You look like food [a target for robbery].”

Michel recently started a job working in a call centre and was able to work remotely in the job from his friend’s house in Cork while he was staying there. He had been trying to find his own accommodation in Cork while temporarily staying with his friend but he said it was impossible to find anywhere within his budget by the time he had to leave his friend’s place.

He then turned to IPAS who haven’t been able to find him a place anywhere due to shortages.

“Their correspondence was basically saying were sorry we can’t do anything for now but we’ll do it as soon as we can. There is a situation with the Ukrainians. I understand, I’m even proud that Ireland stands up for Europe especially with Brexit and everything. There is a sense of European unity that shows solidarity with the Ukrainians. But at the moment it feels like people like me are being forgotten.”

Michel talks to our reporter about his predicament

He said he was shocked that Ireland has found itself in a position where asylum seekers are being forced to sleep on the streets.

“You can’t drop other people in the streets for one month. I would have waited two weeks and just deal with it but we’re over a month now.”

Michel can’t currently work remotely due to his homelessness but his new workplace have said he can work from their Dublin office once he finds accommodation. His intention once he gets back to work is to find his own place and pay his own rent.

“I know I have work waiting for me. Yesterday I sent my employer an update because he’s asking. He’s been really good supporting me.

“I was to be able to work for money. It’s a circle, if you don’t have money you depend on this IPAS system. The basic thing is not to depend on it. If you don’t have money you depend on it and if you want to have money you have to work. My solution is to find a way to work even if it means sleeping in a tent and going to work.”

He said his days now consist of going to charity services for food, visiting the IPO office on Mount Street for any updates and then either sleeping rough or trying to get money together for a hostel.

“I think the government had a choice to make. I feel the pressure on the government for the good they’re doing taking in all these refugees. Yesterday I met a Ukrainian. He was nice. He was here for 15 minutes before he was sent to his accommodation in Citywest. They’re nice people and I understand totally but the system is failing.”

He said some of the people who have recently arrived were shocked to find there were no places for them anywhere.

“I have the advantage of speaking English and I’m used to the system. I know some people come from Afghanistan and Syria and all this is just too much. Some people wanted to sleep here on Monday night and they brought security and told them to leave.

“I remember when I came in 2019 and if they told me there was no accommodation I don’t even think I’d have put in an application in.”

He said he has no issuers with Ukrainian people being given accommodation.

“It’s not us talking bad about refugees from Ukraine. It’s really okay they’re sorted but what about us?”

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