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Asylum seekers to be housed in tents at former Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum

Nov 19, 2023

Tented accommodation for asylum seekers is to be set up on the grounds of the former Central Mental Hospital in the south Dublin suburb of Dundrum.

Sources indicated that up to 176 international protection applicants could ultimately be accommodated on the site, which is to be set up in the coming weeks, with plans to keep it active until September.

The site, which is in the process of being transferred to the Land Development Agency (LDA), has planning permission for 852 homes, which will proceed as intended despite the move.

The CMH site was among several approved for development as temporary refugee accommodation by Cabinet in March, including the stalled ‘super prison’ project at Thornton Hall.

The configuration of the tents will be similar to Columb Barracks in Mullingar, with Government sources saying the use of tents is helped by the mild summer weather.

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A pre-existing building on the site will be used for showers, toilets and a dining area. The people who will be accommodated are those who the State is currently unable to offer accommodation for on arrival.

The move comes amid ongoing pressure on the State's system for receiving asylum seekers and those fleeing the war in Ukraine, with Cabinet approving a plan on Thursday to pay €1.5 million to the EU rather than accept Ireland's allocation of 350 refugees under an EU relocation programme.

A spokesman for the LDA said the agency is moving ahead with its project according to schedule, "but it will be some months before construction begins on site due to the need to carry out detailed design and contractor procurement, as is standard in these cases".

He said that in the meantime, "it is possible to use the site and the existing facilities on the site to provide temporary accommodation services for international protection applicants. The LDA has worked closely with the Government in this regard and is confident that this temporary use will not affect the plans for the construction of permanent housing".

Planning approval was granted for the social and affordable homes on the site late last month, with the LDA flagging that there was a high risk of a legal challenge against the decision in the High Court.

The former Central Mental Hospital, which dates to 1850, was vacated in February by the HSE.

The LDA had sought approval for 977 homes from An Bord Pleanála under fast-track planning laws, since scrapped, which allowed direct applications for large housing schemes to be made to the planning appeal body instead of local authorities.