Call for tougher probes of emergency and asylum housing

Urine-stained bedclothes, insect infestations, and substandard facilities for children in emergency and asylum housing can only be rooted out with tougher inspections, the Government has been told.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy is being urged to consider involving health inspectors in emergency urban units and asylum-seeker facilities after fresh concerns about standards.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) met with Sinn Féin’s housing spokesman, Eoin Ó Broin, who is pushing for its inspectors to look into sub-standard housing nationwide.

Reports and details about emergency housing in Dublin and centres for asylum seekers are getting worse, he told RTÉ.

There are stories of blood- or urine-stained bedclothes, poor food for asylum seekers, and bad facilities for children, as well as drug-taking in some facilities and antisocial behaviour, he said.

Most centres in Dublin city are good, according to Mr Ó Broin, but inspections by the Department of Housing and Dublin Region Homeless Executive are not good enough as they pertain to their own facilities.

Children have been living in emergency housing for up to two years while asylum seekers spend five years in some facilities, said Mr Ó Broin, calling for Hiqa to intervene and inspect facilities.

Hiqa confirmed the meeting with Mr Ó Broin but refused to say any more.

Speaking about conditions for asylum seekers and those in emergency facilities, Mr Ó Broin said: “Nobody should be in accommodation with cockroaches or other infestations.”

He suggested a phase-in period would allow Hiqa to build up its inspection regime. It should also get more powers to help with the proposed inspection regime

“If the standards are not adequate, we should not expect people to live in them for up to two years, which is why the legislation needs to change,” he said.

Responding to the call, Mr Murphy said he is happy with the standards of housing inspections and is awaiting the outcome of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive report, which he said would help him and his department decide if there was a need to toughen up inspections and potentially involve other agencies.

Meanwhile, Mr Murphy has pledged to look into reports that landlords are now demanding two months’ rent up front from tenants as well as a deposit.

The deposits revelation has prompted calls for new rules to stop landlords forcing unfair rules on renters.

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