Locals of Santry, in north county Dublin, have told Gript they are concerned about the planned placement of 303 male asylum seekers into a disused building on an industrial estate which they say is ‘unfit’ for human occupation.
Local man Rory McMahon described the building as a “windowless shed” where trucks drop off merchandise “day and night”, saying that there was concern over the housing of migrants in such conditions.
“I don’t see any humanity in it whatsoever,” he said, adding that the structure has ‘no natural light’.
He said that a local hotel was already occupied by asylum seekers and that he couldn’t “stress enough how scared” many locals were, adding that there had been “incidents” in the local park.
Tina Kavanagh, also local to the area, expressed fear for the safety of her five year old grandson who has autism describing how her home is like “Fort Knox” to ensure that the little boy doesn’t stray outside, and that she feels uneasy at the prospect of ‘hundreds of unvetted men’ in the area should he manage to get out.
She described how local women are reluctant to use a nearby park due to male migrants consuming alcohol there saying that they were known to shout after women.
She said there have been incidents of “intimidation” and that whereas she used to see women in the park walking their dogs, this had become a rare sight and it was now “mostly men walking dogs,”
“I really am concerned,” she said.
Bernie McCann who has lived in the area for 38 years said the direct provision centre is about four minutes walk from her home.
She said she fears for the safety of her daughter who is almost fifteen saying that she wouldn’t be comfortable continuing to allow her to walk to and from a nearby bus stop and that she fears “her independence will be taken away” because of the situation.
She described her area as an “aged community” saying that there were a large number of elderly people living alone including a group of women in their eighties who she said would be afraid to go on morning walks in the park after the migrants arrive.
“I’m losing sleep,” she said, speaking of the worry she is experiencing and how her “anxiety levels” have been affected.
McCann, who says she is nearing retirement, recounted a recent event where she said she witnessed a group of three men who she said ‘were not from the area’ wandering around on her road before one urinated on a patch of grass in front of her.
“A lot of people are scared because we’ve seen things happening from other places,” she said
Another local woman, Anna Gale, said that residents were worried about security in the area as the local Garda station in Santry closes at 9pm leaving them reliant on Ballymum Garda station.
She said that she had made attempts to liaise with An Garda Síochána in regard to the issue but so far had only received an email confirming receipt of her query.
She said her husband had been making enquiries to the office of local TD Dessie Ellis and had been told that single people would arrive in the area in three phases beginning with 126 in the first, 132 in the second, and 45 in the third and final phase.
McMahon said that the Santry has a “huge” migrant population which he said there was ‘no problem with’, but that this latest development was “the straw that broke the camel’s back,”
He blasted what he says is a ‘lack of engagement’ from local politicians saying that locals were “insulted” by the offer of a zoom meeting when they had asked to meet with local representatives.
“That’s all we got,” he said adding, “it was something, but it was nothing,”
He said news that some of the migrants were to be relocated from City West “terrified” locals who have seen footage of disturbances captured from the direct provision centre there.
Kavanagh said that she felt uneasy thinking of ‘over 300 men with nothing to do’ in the area and the implications that could have on women’s safety due to what she called ‘cultural differences’.
McMahon said that concerned residents were being labelled ‘far right fascists’ for expressing fear over the developments in their neighbourhood and that many women now felt unsafe entering the park which he said was recently “a crime scene” and was temporarily closed.
He said concern that the park is unsafe has led to local women ‘both elderly and young mothers with babies’ resorting to taking walks around the industrial estate where the new asylum seekers are to be housed.
“They’re going to lose that now,” he said.
Bernie McCann described the lack of GP services in the area as “absolutely crazy” saying that people “can’t get appointments,” and that phone calls often went unanswered. “It’s crazy,” she said.
She described the nearest shop as being about 2km away while questioning what resources there were for the hundreds of migrants expected to arrive in the area.
McMahon said the Santry area had long been “neglected”, reiterating that locals felt deeply let down by the ‘lack of interest’ shown by their representatives, in which he included local TD Róisín Shorthall.
He said he felt there was an attitude of “contempt” towards residents.
Tina Kavanagh said it seemed to her that the chief concern of local representative Róisín Shorthall was that the protests stop, but that she felt as though there was little will to address the peoples’ concerns.
McMahon said the people were ‘forced’ to take to the streets in recent days after news that an initial 126 males would be moved into the derelict building pending the granting of a fire certificate.
“I don’t see any services set up for them,” he said adding “you can’t get a doctor in Santry” and that services were “stretched to the limit,”
“Society is going to break down over this,” he said.