The Government does not know the cause of death of the majority of the asylum seekers who have died in State care in the last 10 years.
“While two people are recorded as dying as a result of suicide and one resident was stabbed to death, the “suspected cause of death” of over one third of the people who have died while resident in the direct provision accommodation system is unknown.
In response to a Freedom of Information request from The Irish Catholic, the Department of Justice released figures which show that 44 people have died in the direct provision system between 2007 and 2017, including three stillborn babies and one “neonatal death”.
In 15 of the cases the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) record the suspected cause of death as “unknown” or simply “died”.
Among those listed as unknown was a 41-year-old man who was “found in room by roommate” in 2008, a 53-year-old man who was “found dead in his bed at 9am” by his roommate in 2012, a 35-year-old man “found unconscious in room and died in hospital” in 2014 and another man in 2015 “found unconscious in room and died in hospital”.
Yesterday, in the Dáil, Justice Minister Alan Shatter, top, responded to the Irish Times’ articles on the direct provision system, which reported on unpublished inspection reports into the system which caters for asylum seekers.
During his response he said:
“There was mention in the article of suicides being covered up. That is untrue. In the 14 years of RIA’s existence only one person, a newly-arrived asylum seeker, can with certainty be said to have committed suicide and that happened while the individual was being detained in hospital. It did not happen in one of the centres.”
In July of this year, replying to a question from Labour TD Derek Nolan, Mr Shatter provided the above table to show the number of asylum seekers who have died while residing in the direct provision system.
It has always been the case that the Reception Integration Agency, which runs direct provision, does not and cannot have access to death certificates, leading to very little being known about these deaths.
In 2011 – at which point there had been 49 deaths and the one known suicide – Sue Conlon, of the Irish Refugee Council told Metro Éireann newspaper of her concern surrounding the unknown cause of the deaths.
“[Sue Conlon] continued: ‘Residents in direct provision live in conditions that are not designed as long-term living space, where they have no control over meals… and can be transferred without consultation. In these circumstances, residents become de-skilled, isolated from society and often suffer poor health, including mental health. It is not surprising that so many have died’. Conlan said it is “of grave concern that so little is known about the cause of death” of the 49 “and how the whole experience in direct provision may have contributed to the deterioration in their health”.
From the same article:
“Pastor Amos Ngugi of Act of Compassion Ministries – which voluntarily works with asylum seekers experiencing emotional problems – said he couldn’t comment on whether the RIA statistic denoting one suicide was accurate.”
“He said he had heard rumours which suggested more than one suicide, but stressed he could not yet substantiate this.”
“However, the Kenyan-born pastor and former hospital chaplain noted that depression – which in severe cases can lead to suicide – is a “major issue” in RIA accommodation centres.”
“What I do know 100 per cent is that depression is a major problem,” he remarked.”
Separately, but related, in the Irish Refugee Council’s report State-sanctioned Child Poverty and Exclusion, it told how:
In 2010, Perpetua, a woman who was six months pregnant miscarried her twin babies while living in the Eglinton Hotel in Galway. She believes the miscarriage was caused by the stress of living in Direct Provision without enough space, privacy or quiet to sleep at night. She shared her room with her five-year-old daughter and another mother and her 18-month-old son.
It also reported how in 2007:
“The Connacht Sentinel reported on the death of Brenda Kwesikazi Mohammed, an asylum-seeker, and mother of a two-year-old daughter, living in the Eglinton Hotel in Galway. The Sentinel reported that Brenda died of malnutrition.”
In the course of my work (honest!) I came upon this infographic that breaks down the leading causes of disease and disability globally.
You can filter by region, by sex, by age, by risk factor/ cause of disease…You could lose a whole day in there.
I learned, for example, that the number one cause of death in Central and Tropical Latin America (I think tropical means Colombia and Venezuela, basically) is “interpersonal violence”. More people are killed by other people than any other way. Meanwhile, the fifth greatest risk of death for women my age in Western Europe is intimate partner violence. Enjoy!