It is with a heavy heart that unfortunately we have to postpone our End Of Summer Vibe/One Love Concert scheduled for this Sunday, September 10 in the open air Ballykeeffe Amphitheatre in Kilkenny.
The reason that I decided to pull the plug was based on two factors. The first and most importantly was the weather. It’s 95% forecast of rain and also to be cold. This is not at all conducive to the vibe we want to generate.
Although there is so much good will for the event ticket sales have not being forthcoming. So the reasoning behind this is that people have decided to see what the weather is like on Sunday.
As we have so much good people giving their time and talents for little or no monetary gain we have taken the tough decision to postpone until early summer 2018.
The residents in Direct Provision Centres in The South East at Waterford and Tramore are disappointed that the concert will not go ahead but are happy that something will be organised in 2018.
This will give us more time to highlight the plight of people in Direct Provision and hopefully this time next year Direct Provision will be dealt with for the betterment of everyone.
In the meantime please support the initative of Kilkenny Solidarity Dinners who have being doing fantastic work in organising some great afternoons with our brothers and sisters in Direct Provision.
Promoter Stephen Garland who was also to benefit from this event has got some good news. He will now go to Russia for his much needed surgery this November. So for anyone who wants to sponsor Stephen please do so by visiting his website
We have got so much support locally and nationally with this event. In order to do it justice we will look forward and move forward together for making OneLoveKK 2018 a reality.
Thanks to the following for their support and goodwill.
All the Crew at Ballykeeffe Amphitheatre, Martin Leahy for designing poster. Perfecto Print Kilkenny, Rollercoaster Records Kilkenny, The Book Centre Kilkenny, KCLR fm, The Kilkenny People, The Kilkenny Reporter, The Kilkenny Journal, Lucky Khambule MASI (Movement of Asylum Seekers Ireland), Broadsheet.ie, Residents in Direct Provision Centres in Waterford and Tramore. Oliva Lyng, Gareth Hanlon, Sandrine Dunlop, Geraldine Fahy, Emmanuel & Nic at Kilkennny Solidarity Dinners and for everyone else who i’ve missed who has got behind this event and will get behind it again in 2018.
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”.
From top: A Direct Provision protest last year; Issues raised by children living in DP centres
A report report into conditions faced by children in Direct provision was published by the Department of Justice
The report, conducted by University College Cork on behalf, concluded:
The main message that emerges from the data is that on the whole, children and young people living in Direct Provision are dissatisfied with the system and say that their personal wellbeing, family life, private life and social life is adversely affected by long stays in the Direct Provision centres.
Although some of the children and young people talked about “the amazing community” and “nice people,” and others referred to their enjoyment of having easy access to their friends, the majority of those consulted are highly critical of what they state are the live for long periods of time.
They say that they do not like the system, that it is “not fair”, “not safe,” and that they are frequently subjected to rudeness and insensitive treatment by staff (including security staff) and by adults living in the centres.
Many children and young people raised issues relating to racism, stigma and bullying, both where they live, and in school.
While some of the children and young people like the area they live in, particularly those who live near the sea and those who live near the centre of Dublin, many said they “can’t travel” because of poor transport services, have very little access to outside places, and “don’t really go out.”
A number of children and young people also talked about the problems they face in going on trips organised by their schools.
A recurring theme among the children and young people consulted was the food they are provided with in their centres. In particular, many issues arose about the quality and the quantity of food that is provided.
The diets were described as “horrible and disgusting” (13 – 18 years), “always the same” (8 – 12 years), and “the food has no taste.” (8 – 12 years).
Undercooked food, especially chicken, came up as a problem in a number of consultations, and children said that residents often won’t eat the food.
Access to culturally appropriate food and/or cooking facilities was also an issue, as was the communal dining system. One child said they “do not like to stand in the queue for food” (8 – 12 years).
All ages spoke about the inadequacy of the weekly payments to meet basic needs such as school books, uniforms and other related expenses. Teenagers also mentioned the clothing allowance as being entirely unrealistic and as contributing to difficulties in fitting in with their peers.
A striking finding from these consultations is the similarity between the themes emerging, and those identified in the ‘Working Group to Report to Government on Improvements to the Protection Process, includin g Direct Provision and Supports to Asylum Seekers. Final Report: June 2015’, namely living conditions, supports, and the length of time for processing asylum applications.
What a slap on the face from Leo Varadkar, just days after coming to office. This not what we, as people living in poverty under the system of Direct Provision, want. Is he really serious, how can our lives improve from this, realistically speaking?
From top: Lissywollen Direct Provision centre for asylum seekers in Athlon Fr Paddy Byrne, of Portlaoise
Further to the Supreme Court decision earlier this week.
In which it unanimously decided that the ban prohibiting asylum seekers from work is unconstitutional.
Mags Gargan, in The Irish Catholic, writes:
Pope Francis has been called on to visit a direct provision centre during his expected trip to Ireland next year, in order to highlight the treatment of asylum seekers.
Fr Paddy Byrne, a curate in Portlaoise parish who ministers to the residents of the Montague Hotel, a direct provision centre in Emo, said the system is a “scandal” but it is “not on the mainstream political agenda because it is not popular”.
“The culture in Ireland, that was so vociferous in relation to the scandals of the past and how we treated our citizens in mother and baby homes, seems to be taking absolutely no cognisance of the fact that this remains a reality in this Republic in 2017.
“There are mothers and babies imprisoned in horrific conditions, and in the parish where I minister, four miles out the road you have 140 people imprisoned up to 10 years by direct provision,” he said.
“I call upon Pope Francis when he visits Ireland for the World Meeting of Families next year, to visit a direct provision centre. We have to challenge this with dramatic gestures and it would be in keeping with tradition of the Church, our theology and our pastoral care – we need to be out there on the frontline.”
During the fourth and final Fine Gael leadership hustings, a man called Joseph (top) asked about direct provision. He said thousands of Irish people can see the direct provision system is an act of disrespect to humanity.
He then asked how either Simon Coveney or Leo Varadkar would address this, if they became Taoiseach.
He also said:
“The [Bryan] McMahon Report recommends safeguards to ensure that no one is left in the asylum system longer than five years. What are your intentions regarding the people who have been in the asylum system for over five years, especially those who are not eligible to have the single application accessed under the new single procedure or people who are on deportation orders?”
From their responses:
Simon Coveney said:
“First of all, in relation to people who’ve been here for many years and who are essentially in limbo, because they are, because for many people, it’s actually almost impossible for the Department of Justice to establish a number of the facts that they’re trying to establish around people who are here as to whether they should be eligible for asylum or not.
“And so people just are here in that state of unknowing what the future holds and I do think if we advocate, as we do, for undocumented Irish in the US, to have a path to be able to regularise their own position. I believe, also in Ireland, we should allow for an opportunity for people to regularise their position over time if they’ve been here for many years.
“I also think that it is no way to actually cater for people who are waiting for asylum decisions here, beyond a certain period of time, for people to be in direct provision. People who want to make a contribution, people who are essentially living with very small amounts of money per week and with the State subsidising their lives, but really unable to make any positive contribution to society for various different reasons in terms of barriers that are put in place.
“And I do think we need to move away from that. In a way, of course those, that ensures that we make decisions firmly and fairly in relation to asylum applications and of applications in relation to refugees.
“But I do think what we have at the moment is a system that takes far too long to make decisions and therefore we’re asking families and individuals to stay in conditions which are not conducive to contributing in a positive way to society. And I know Joseph well, he’s a great guy. But there is change in this area that’s needed and of course that puts more pressure on a minister like me, in terms of social housing provision which is why we’ve committed €5.5billion to a social housing build programme that’s going to add 47,000 social houses.”
Leo Varadkar said:
“I suppose the idea of direct provision, when it was first established, I think it was probably back in the 1990s at this stage, was that people would be in direct provision for a couple of months while their applications for asylum or refugee status would be decided on and if they got status, they would then leave direct provision. If they didn’t, then they’d obviously would have to leave the country if they were found not to be eligible for refugee status or asylum status.
“The real problem is that people are now staying so long in direct provision. And there actually are people who have status, who’ve been given leave to remain, who’ve been given refugee status, but are still living in direct provision because there is no housing available for them. That’s a terrible situation to be in for people, they are still living in Mosney for example, the old Butlin’s camp, who have been given status but there is no homes for them to go to and I think that’s really, really difficult for us as a society to stand over.
“I do think things will improve. We brought through new legislation, Minister [Frances] Fitzgerald, the Minister for Justice, has finally, after a lot of hard work, successfully brought through the International Protection Act. And that’s going to change things, cause at the moment you can apply for different statuses, you can apply for different types of statuses at different times. And under the new rules, you’ll apply for all types of status on day one.
“So, at the moment, you might apply for refugee status, not get that, apply for leave to remain, then not get that, then judicial review it, she’s going to streamline that whole process so decisions are going to be made a lot quicker and I think that’s a real step forward and it’s a tribute to her and Dave Stanton, in fact, for getting through that legislation.
“One thing I’d like to see examined. I haven’t studied it in detail myself so I don’t want to make a definite commitment on it but I do think people who are in the country for a long period of time, whose status hasn’t been decided on, we should consider giving them the right to work. It must be a very frustrating thing to be in a country, you’re waiting on a decision, you want to work, you want to contribute, you want to make money for your family, you want to give something to the society you’re now living in and I think that’s something we need to take a long, hard look at.”
The Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy spoke about the procurement and management of contracts for direct provision centres.
In his opening statement, he explained that €57million was spent on accommodation for asylum seekers in 2015. He then went on to criticise how direct provision management contracts were procured for the 28 commercially run centres across Ireland.
He also stated: “Contracts did not set performance measures and there was limited provision for penalties for under-performance by suppliers.”
The General Secretary of the Department of Justice Noel Waters was also present at PAC and, in his opening statement, said if direct provision had not been established in 2000, there “simply would not have been even the most basic shelter available” for people seeking asylum in Ireland.
He also said “there are no cheaper alternatives to direct provision”.
From Mr McCarthy’s opening statement:
“At December 2015, there was a total of 35 direct provision centres in operation — seven State-owned centres, and 28 centres provided by 22 commercial suppliers. Almost 4,700 individuals were being accommodated in the centres at the year end. The Department also operates two emergency reception and orientation centres to cater for persons who already have refugee status.
“The total cost to the Department in 2015 of providing accommodation and related services to asylum seekers and refugees was €57 million. The level of accommodation required is demand-led and difficult to predict. It is influenced by the number of asylum seekers, their length of stay in direct provision and, because there is no obligation to avail of direct provision, the number who opt to do so.
“The report notes that in mid-2016, the average length of stay was 38 months with 450 residents, or 10% of the total, living in direct provision for more than seven years. 23% of residents or 950 people, continued to reside in direct provision even though their cases had been finalised. This included 667 people or 16% who had been granted a status permitting them to remain in Ireland; and 283 or 7% who were subject to deportation orders.
“Two commercial companies were contracted to provide services such as catering, cleaning and maintenance at the seven State-owned centres. We found that competitive processes had been used to procure those services.
“In contrast, the Department had not used competitive processes as set out in public procurement procedures to procure the 28 commercially-owned and run centres. Instead, it seeks ‘expressions of interest’, evaluates the responses and then agrees contract terms with selected providers.
“The Department’s view is that this equates to the ‘negotiated procedure’ provided for in EU procurement rules. However, use of that procedure is only permitted in certain limited circumstances that we could not see existed in relation to direct provision. The Department stated that it discussed the matter with the Office of Government Procurement but hadn’t identified a procurement method to replace the current procedure.
“The examination also found that effective management of contracts was made more difficult because not all contract deliverables had been expressed in a way that could be quantified or measured.This increased the risk that standards of accommodation and services would not meet asylum seekers’ needs or would be inconsistent between centres.
“In addition, contracts did not set performance measures and there was limited provision for penalties for under-performance by suppliers. The Department agreed to the report’s recommendation to review the standard contract, and the Accounting Officer will be able to update the Committee in that regard. Service delivery in the centres is monitored by physical inspections of premises, information clinics for residents of centres and review of complaints by residents.
“However, the findings from this monitoring are not collated and used to assess service delivery performance. The Department committed to introduce procedures to formally record such inspection findings and complaints, which should inform discussions with centre managers and owners. Even though there was a low level of complaints by residents, information from other sources suggests that there is a significant level of dissatisfaction among residents about the quality of the accommodation and/or services provided.
“A revised complaints procedure introduced in 2015 provided for an appeal to an independent appeals officer where a person was not satisfied with how their complaint was dealt with. However, at the time of the examination, an independent appeals officer had yet to be appointed.
“The report recommended that the Department review the complaints process to identify reasons why residents may not be raising issues. The Department noted that the revised complaints procedure largely addressed this issue but undertook to examine ways to make the complaints process more open and transparent.
“Members may also be aware that, from early April this year, residents of direct provision can now bring a complaint to the Ombudsman, or to the Ombudsman for Children, if they are unhappy with how their original complaint was dealt with.”
From the Secretary General at the Department of Justice Noel Waters’ opening statement:
“From 2000 to date some 60,000 people have been accommodated in direct provision. Equally they have been provided with full access to the State’s medical and education services. The system is not perfect by any means and we are continually seeking to improve it.”
“The reality is that had the State not adopted the direct provision system, there simply would not have been even the most basic shelter available for this group of people who arrived and continue to arrive to our country.”
“At the start of this year there were 4,465 persons living in this accommodation. However, I am glad to say – and this is a significant change – that, of those, 72% have been there for three years or less since the date of their application. This compares to 36% who were there for 3 years or less when the data was compiled for the Working Group on Direct Provision and related matters in 2015.”
“To put it another way, there has been a complete reversal in the length of stay figures since the Working Group examined the matter.”
“Full board accommodation in keeping with the policy of nationwide dispersal is offered to
residents while their application for protection is being processed. It is important to note that not every person who seeks international protection in Ireland choses to accept the offer of full board accommodation and many choose to live with family or friends in communities across the country, as they are entitled to do.”
“But if this system was not in place, already vulnerable people who have sought protection in the State would join the lengthy waiting lists for social housing or enter the private rental market with little hope of finding affordable and secure accommodation.”
“That is the very situation that obtained which gave rise to the direct provision system being put in place in the first place. The offer of State-provided accommodation is a guarantee that every person who walks into the International Protection Office today will, tonight, have a bed, full board and access to medical care.”
“Moreover, their children will have access to our first and second level education system on
the same basis as anyone else.”
“Of course no system is without room for improvement and our challenge is to continually
enhance and develop the entire system so that the best possible set of facilities and services can be provided to those in our care.”
“…There are no cheaper alternatives to direct provision – we have explored the options in this respect; in fact they are much more expensive – and in any event given the critical shortage of housing in the State they are not realistic.”