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Man who stayed in Ashtown migrant camp describes being attacked with ‘sticks’ and ‘dogs’

The Portugese man says he now plans to leave Ireland for good

Eugene Masterson talks to Elvis at the camp on the the RiverTolka last week

A group of men entered a makeshift camp of homeless men on the banks of the Tolka in Ashtown, Dublin, and ordered the occupants to leave.

Eugene Masterson at the camp on the the RiverTolka

The Tolka camp, where about 10 people live

Eugene MastersonSunday World

A young migrant who was forced out of his tented home when he and his friends were confronted by a group of angry Irishmen at their camp in north Dublin over the weekend has said they were violently attacked.

And so scared is Portuguese national Elvis (31) of any further trouble from the growing scourge of far-right outbursts here that he intends heading back to his home country for good.

The attack on the migrant camp at Ashtown in northwest county Dublin happened just 48 hours after the Sunday World visited the site and spoke to several men who were living in tents there.

During our team’s visit, a Dublin man – aged in his late 20s and dressed in a grey tracksuit – descended on the isolated camp.

The camp is located in the woodland onto the banks of the river Tolka.

The Dubliner we encountered reacted aggressively when asked by Elvis what he was doing there, replying; “just seeing who’s here and what’s going on” and refused to give his name.

Tent camp beside Tolka river in Ashtown, Dublin

Elvis does not believe the man in question was one of the group who attacked him and his friends but believe he may have been scoping the site out.

“He was clearly videoing the tents and us and talking into the phone as if he was livestreaming,” Elvis told us.

“Another man also visited the site a day or two before and put up a video online complaining about our presence, which led to comments on online that we needed to be ‘ran out’”.

Elvis describes in detail how his group were attacked.

“It all happened so fast, but they had dogs with them and threatened us,” he told the Sunday World.

“They had sticks and some sort of bat. They hit two of my friends on the site, one young guy from Croatia and the other man from Hungary.

“One of the men who attacked the camp was wearing a hood.

“The whole thing was awful. I did not know it was going to be so bad.”

A group of men entered a makeshift camp of homeless men on the banks of the Tolka in Ashtown, Dublin, and ordered the occupants to leave.

He added his two friends were injured but did not have to be hospitalised.

“It happened very fast, but I managed to get my stuff as soon as possible and head out of there,” he recalls.

“I didn’t want to hang around as the dogs they had seemed quite vicious.

“The men themselves were very violent. I don’t know if they were high on drugs or whatever, but they were very aggressive. We never thought things would escalate like that.”

“Some of my friends were so scared they left tents and stuff behind.

"Nobody wants to go back there again, in case we meet them again.”

Elvis says he is now staying in a hostel in the city centre. “I’m staying there for a few days and things are OK,” he explains.

“One of my other friends is now working and has managed to get a place for €400 a month somewhere in Ballymun.

Eugene Masterson at the camp on the the RiverTolka

“I’m planning to go back to Portugal as soon as possible. I’ve had enough of here, especially after this attack.”

Elvis stresses that homeless people are not just facing such attacks and abuse in Ireland, but all over Europe.

“This is an international problem,” he points out. “We also have this type of behaviour in Portugal, targeting migrants and foreigners.

“The far right are all over Europe. When you have a family and a home it’s much better, but on the streets you are vulnerable.”

Elvis, who was named by his parents after the famous American singer, had previously told us he had been living in the site for four months,.

“I’m here about two years now. I was working in a hostel as a night porter. I lost my job, then I was living in Cabra East and I could not pay the rent. I’m looking for another job, but it’s hard to get” he maintained.

Elvis had been temporarily living with a friend in Smithfield and attending a soup-run nearby when he heard about the plot of land in Ashtown.

“He [friend] was sleeping here and said it was nice.

"He was scared to be here by himself, so he said ‘If you want to come here and pitch a tent, come join me’, so me and another Polish man, Piotr, decided to join him. Then we met others at the soup-runs and they joined.”

The group had been approached by others but were told there is not enough room.

Elvis had tried to look for accommodation elsewhere.

“I tried the hostels, one in particular,” he admits. “I did not like the place there. There were robberies, drug addicts. If you went to the bathroom barefooted, you’d have to be careful of needles."

Although camps like the one in Ashtown may be a new phenomenon to these shores, Elvis believes theirs is not unique.

“I know there’s some people pitching in Smithfield. I heard there’s camps in the Leopardstown area, a bit like this, and also in Blanchardstown. They have women and children. I haven’t seen it with my own eyes,” Elvis says.

He adds there were usually between seven to 10 people living in these temporary communities.

The Tolka camp, where about 10 people live

“There are people from Poland, Hungary, Croatia, India and Portugal,” he told us last week. “We use some of the tents for storage, like at the soup-runs if we get some jackets.”

One leading homeless charity told the Sunday World we can expect more of this type of phenomenon due to a greater strain on housing services.

New figures released on Friday revealed a record 11,632 people were in emergency accommodation during December.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, whose constituency includes the campsite in Ashtown, has slammed the attack there as “racist” and has asked Gardai for a report on the incident.

Dozens of locals protested as Ashtown railway station on Monday night against migrants and refugees being targeted by far-right groups.

Dublin has seen several flare-ups in recent weeks, with protests by anti-immigrant groups in East Wall, Finglas, Ballymun, while a building due to house a group of foreign people in the north inner city was torched on Monday night.

Locations being used across the country for the influx of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants have also been the focus of protests by some locals.

The tented community we featured on Sunday housed about 10 men, with many of the tents there used for storage purposes.

Tamas (39), who was one of the men injured at the site last Saturday, told us last week that believes that many of the homeless people living in temporary accommodation are being wrongly classified as addicts and troublemakers.

“Normal Irish people are average blokes like us. It’s nothing to do with nationality or skin colour,” he said, adding that the Government should do more.

“First of all, the Government should do something about the homeless services, because people get abused there,” he insists.

“We don’t have addictions, don’t take drugs, don’t drink alcohol. The Government doesn’t separate us, there are different needs.

“It’s hard to put up when you are put in with addicted people. We are looking for jobs, but it’s not working out right now and we have nowhere proper to live.”

Francis Doherty, head of Housing Services for the Peter McVerry Trust, tells the Sunday World that there could be a growing number of tent villages like this.

“The unfortunate reality is that we are going to see more people struggle to access emergency accommodation for whatever reason, if they lose their private rental or there’s some sort of family breakdown, but there’s going to be more people that are likely to be sleeping rough,” he points out.

“We see huge pressure on the homeless system and we can see pressure on the international protection system,” Mr Doherty says.

“The worry is that there will be more people rough sleeping, and the longer people are sleeping rough the more structure that sort of routine becomes, so you could see people I suppose [through] friendships or relationships and people getting together to form small communities.

“We have had instances of this in the past, in the Phoenix Park and other places, but really we need not to let it grow.

“[We need to] get to those people as early as we can, to get them into some type of shelter and from the shelter into housing as quick as we can,” Mr Doherty adds.

Roughan MacNamara, head of Communications for Focus Ireland, agrees that there is much to do.

“We sadly expect the number of people who are homeless to go up and unless there’s firm action taken by the Government the number of them who will be even without emergency accommodation will be rising,” he says.

“We also have the situation where single refugees that are arriving are being told to go into the city centre and get something to eat and that’s all the help they’re being given.

“They’re left to their own devices and most of them will end up sleeping rough,” Mr MacNamara predicts.

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