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Asylum seekers should be housed in office blocks and ‘floatels’, Irish expert says

‘We have to house people in whatever way we can that is fit for human habitation’

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Neil Fetherstonhaugh

Asylum seekers have to be housed anywhere that is “fit for human habitation”, including office blocks, one of the country’s foremost experts has said.

Associate Professor of Architecture Tom Phillips said housing asylum seekers in office blocks “is the right way to go”, as a severe shortage in accommodation has led to some ending up sleeping in tents on Dublin’s Mount Street.

Mr Phillips, from the school of architecture at University College Dublin, was speaking as former office blocks in Galway and Santry have been utilised by the Government that Mr Phillips said was a symptom of the scale of the problem.

“We have to house people in whatever way we can that is fit for human habitation,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.

“We already have a situation where the Government has introduced these policies to allow the repurposing of now defunct pubs a few years ago.

“We have a system in the planning regulation that allows the repurposing of office blocks of certain sizes for permanent accommodation.

“So, we have a housing crisis and we have a large influx of people.”

According to figures quoted by Newstalk, there were 16,500 people accommodated in the International Protection Accommodation System (IPAS) in October of last year, more than double the figure for the previous year.

The State has also found housing for some 42,000 Ukrainians although officials have said the influx has led to “significant shortages” in accommodation.

“They have to be housed somewhere and we already have a housing crisis of the [local] population,” Professor Phillips said.

“So, we have to look at innovative ways and I think the repurposing of an office block to be used for short-term accommodation for people while they find their feet - or while something else is found for them - is the right way to go.”

Professor Phillips said while office blocks in city centres were unlikely to be suitable “because of the depth of the floorspace”, other smaller, suburban office blocks were likely to be more suitable.

He also suggested that boats or so-called ‘floatels’ could also be used.

Minister Roderic O'Gorman confirmed this week that the use of 'floatels' is being considered for the first time.

“None of these are being put forward as permanent solutions but they have to be done as short-term solutions,” he said.

“It’s a lot better than having people living in tents as you go up and down Mount Street. So, if we can put people somewhere that’s safe, I think that’s a good thing.”

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