The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland is deeply troubled by the announcement made by the Department of Justice and Equality on the procurement of additional beds for asylum seekers, without providing detailed information on how these beds will be allocated to asylum seekers. This is troubling for MASI because we wrote to Minister Charlie Flanagan on the 20th March 2020 urging him to take action to protect asylum seekers living in Direct Provision. MASI received a disturbing response from the Minister which among other things said:
“The assessment is that dedicated Direct Provision centres are safer environments than emergency accommodation and therefore international protection applicants have recently been transferred from emergency accommodation to dedicated centres in Tullamore, Rosslare Harbour, and Cahersiveen.”
That is troubling because opening of new Direct Provision centres that have the same congregated settings where asylum seekers share intimate living spaces such as bedrooms, communal bathrooms, and dining areas, often in large numbers, is not actually helping asylum seekers comply with all the HSE guidelines on Covid19, something that is contrary to the claims by the Department of Justice and Equality that they are guided by the HSE. MASI has already received complaints from asylum seekers who are forced to share a bedroom that is actually suitable for 1 person in Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry. More alarming was the new Direct Provision centre in Ennis where 7 asylum seeking men were forced to share a bedroom that would suit 1 person.
The letter sent to MASI by the Minister and the statement issued by Minister Charlie Flanagan and Minister David Stanton does not give assurances that ALL asylum seekers will be assisted to observe appropriate social distancing as per HSE advice. For this to happen, the Department of Justice and Equality would have to remove elderly asylum seekers, healthcare workers, asylum seekers with underlying health conditions from Direct Provision. And ensure that no one in Direct Provision is forced to share intimate living spaces with strangers, particularly when some work in essential services. The Department of Justice and Equality rejected MASI’s call for the provision of single rooms and self contained units for families.
A mother living in Direct Provision recently tested positive for Covid19 and was told to self isolate with her child. She shared a communal kitchen with other asylum seekers in the centre and this made it impossible to properly self isolate. Asylum seeking parents have also been asked by the Department of Justice and Equality to nominate an alternative caregiver in the event that they are hospitalised. This has caused a lot of distress among lone parents in Direct Provision who do not know anyone that would be in a position to look after their children. This is particularly worrying for asylum seeking parents with underlying health conditions and no one to nominate as an alternative caregiver.
And we recently learned that one of our members, a refugee man who works in a nursing home, has to go back to a Direct Provision centre after work, share a bedroom with other men, and make use of other communal spaces that are shared by all the asylum seekers in the overcrowded Direct Provision centre. This is not only hazardous for residents in the Direct Provision centre but could have devastating consequences for vulnerable people in the nursing home he works in.
This is an appeal to the Irish government to act with a sense of urgency and protect ALL asylum seekers. Moving asylum seekers from Clayton Hotel or other emergency accommodation centres to a Direct Provision centre where they are still forced to share intimate living spaces is not the protection required in dealing with Covid19. Today, asylum seekers in Aramark managed Knockalisheen Direct Provision centre that has been opened for the past 19 years, still share intimate living spaces. This is the same with men sleeping in crammed rooms in Glenvera Direct Provision centre in Cork and in Direct Provision centres across the country. Yet Minister Charlie Flanagan tells MASI that this is safe. A continuation of this is not beneficial for anyone except for operators of Direct Provision centres who continue to line their pockets as they are paid for each person hence they put many people in a tiny room, including the use of bunk beds.
About MASI – the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland is a grassroots organisation based in Ireland. We are people who are or have been in the asylum and direct provision system in Ireland, working and advocating together for justice, freedom and dignity for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. Our focus is on the Right to Education and the Right to Work for all people seeking asylum, on the complete abolition of direct provision and an end to deportations.
Media Enquiries: Bulelani Mfaco – +353 89 474 2911