'Eight or 10 people staying in one bedroom' - secret footage reveals asylum seekers crammed into hotel

Overcrowded hotel accommodation with as many as 10 per roomNo storage or wardrobe spaceHour-long queues for bathroomDepartment of Justice launches probe

02/10/2019 Pat O Connell interviews a number of unnamed asylum seekers presently housed in East End Hotel, Portarlington.

Patrick O'Connell

Secret recorded videos reveal how asylum seekers are being crammed - with as many as 10 beds packed into one room - at a hotel provided by the Department of Justice as emergency accommodation.

Videos recorded this week inside the East End Hotel in Portarlington, Co Laois, and show how wardrobes have been removed from bedrooms to fit in extra single beds in a bid to boost capacity.

02/10/2019 Pat O Connell interviews a number of unnamed asylum seekers presently housed in East End Hotel, Portarlington.

After the images of the cramped living quarters were made available to the department, they launched a probe and ­immediately dispatched two officials to investigate the issue.

One resident said: "I have no future here. I am just stuck. I can't go to work, I can't get education, I can't join a gym, I don't know what's going on."

"Imagine, eight or ten people staying in one bedroom with no television, people start watching each other, it leads to fights."

Figures previously released by the ­Department of Justice revealed that the ­average cost of keeping asylum seekers in such emergency accommodation to be €100 per person per night.

During our investigation into the East End Hotel, three residents who said there are now in excess of 40 asylum seekers staying in what was, until 2017, a 12-bedroom hotel.

The property, owned by Monaghan-based developer Patrick Martin, is one of a number converted for use as an emergency accommodation centre after the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) advertised an overall €11.5million contract seeking places to house asylum seekers in January.

Soon after we called Mr ­Martin on his mobile, our journalist was ­contacted by a person on a private number who claimed to be acting for a party leasing the property from the owner.

This person refused to identity himself - but instructed this newspaper to contact RIA with any queries.

RIA had, however, already declined to comment, saying all media queries were to be directed to the Department of Justice.

A Somalian national who has been living at the hotel for the past five months, said he feels utterly hopeless and helpless. "I have asked and nobody will tell me how long more I will here (in Portarlington)," he added.

02/10/2019 East End hotel Portarlington

"There are more people arriving and there is work going on in the hotel to make another room - so we don't know how many more people will come.

"Things were worse in the beginning but when we complained about the food it got better. Some of the bedrooms have four or five beds each but one room has 10 beds in it.

"The big problem is with the toilets in the morning. Each room has its own toilet but you could be in a queue for an hour if the other people in your room need to use it first.

"There are no wardrobes so we put our clothes next to the beds on the ground," he added.

Pat O Connell interviews a number of unnamed asylum seekers presently housed in East End Hotel, Portarlington.

Asked whether they had complained about the numbers of beds in the room, the asylum seeker replied: "We have to accept what the management give us. We were told it was emergency ­accommodation when we arrived but no one can tell me how long I will be here. one lady I spoke to said to me she did not know - but I will probably be here a very long time.

"Even in jail you are told a release date. I did not care when I fled Somalia where I would end up as long as I could be safe - but I would not have come to Ireland if I knew my life would be like this. I have no future here. I am just stuck."

Videos taken inside the property show the rooms and common areas are clean and well-tended but the asylum seekers say there are issues with the food in that if they are late for meals then the kitchen is not open to them.

"The manager said their duty is to provide us with accommodation and three meals a day," the Somalian added. "Other than that they say any problems we must take them to RIA but nobody comes back when we email them."

Another resident, an asylum seeker from Kuwait whose medical documents confirm he was tortured before he fled his home country, says he is worried for his mental health and gets no answer from RIA to emails pleading with them for a transfer to accommodation in Dublin.

Documents show he was ­previously diagnosed with severe depression and suicidal thoughts but his pleas to be transferred to the capital - where, he says, he has friends and would be ­happier - have not received a response.

02/10/2019 Pat O Connell interviews a number of unnamed asylum seekers presently housed in East End Hotel, Portarlington.

All three asylum seekers who spoke to our team said they have not experienced racism since their arrival in ­Ireland and insist they have been welcomed by local people.

"When I go walking in the morning, people say hello to me," one said. "It is not racism that is the problem but the system here is not good."

After the Department of Justice was notified about the videos, two officials were immediately despatched to the hotel.

In a statement, the department confirmed: "Two department officials today met with both the ­management and IP residents in the accommodation referred to.

"Should any issue arise following consideration of the matter the department will ensure that necessary remedial actions are undertaken."

The department also acknowledged the extent to which the controversial system is being overwhelmed by the numbers of people legitimately coming to this country seeking protection from war, torture and persecution abroad, which has jumped 53 per cent since the start of this year.

East End hotel Portarlington

It added the rise forced it to rent accommodation from private operators as it did not have enough direct provision beds and said it "encouraged" asylum seekers living in them to report any concerns to the department.

Sinn Fein Cllr Aidan Mullins said he was shocked by our video showing 10 beds in one room.

"If you look at what has been happening in Oughtarard, then this is a case where you can see that a lot of what the protesters are saying is true - putting people in this kind of accommodation long-term is not right.

"People being brought here belong in proper accommodation, they are human beings and should be treated like that. In my opinion ten beds in a room is horrific."