Tag Archives: Direct Provision


From top: One room shared by seven asylum-seeking men in a newly opened direct provision centre in Ennis, Co Clare; Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton

This morning.

RTÉ’s Seán O’Rourke interviewed the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan about direct provision and Covid-19.

Mr O’Rourke started the interview by telling listeners that the Department of Justice has made more than 650 new direct provision beds available for the Covid-19 emergency.

The group Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland [MASI] last night tweeted pictures of some of these new beds which would appear to show the same crowded conditions as ‘old’ direct provision centres.

Asked about this, and MASI’s claim that seven asylum-seeking men were forced to share a bedroom that would suit one person in Ennis, Co Clare (pic above), Mr Flanagan mentioned that he had seen “misleading information on social media”.

Mr Flanagan wasn’t asked to specify to what he was referring.

From the interview:

Seán O’Rourke: “Are asylum seekers in a position to follow the social distancing [two metres] guidelines put in place by your own Government and its health advisors.”

Charlie Flanagan: “Good morning, Seán. And this is one of the many challenges that we’re facing as a society. Obviously myself and Minister [David] Stanton, and indeed everybody across the Department of Justice and our agencies, we’re very concerned at the situation and, indeed, the vulnerability of people in direct provision.

“People who are awaiting their applications to be dealt with as to whether or not they may be in a position, legally, to remain for he foreseeable future in our state. And I believe it’s important that the concerns that you mentioned that were met. That’s why we managed, after considerable amount of work, to procure a further 650 new beds which are now coming on stream.

“That will alleviate something of the pressure that’s on many of our centres in terms of complying with the Government and public health guidelines.”

Seán O’Rourke: “Yeah, well I see a statement responding to your announcement from the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland [MASI] saying they’re deeply troubled because, for instance, new direct provision centres, have the same congregated settings where asylum seekers, they share intimate living spaces like bedrooms, communal bathrooms, dining areas, often in large numbers.”

Flanagan: “Yeah, and that’s why we’re moving to mitigate the problems and deal with the issues. Obviously, we’re dealing with people here who are in a congregated setting, some of the centres are big. Some of the centres are not so big. But I have to say we are working very positively with all of the management in the centres, right across the country and there are just about 40 centres.

“They are all of different dimensions but I’m satisfied that the new regulations are now taking place right across the direct provision stage.

“We have, for example, the provision of gels and soaps advices, often times required in different language and translators. I’m not underestimating this challenge but what I’m saying is that what Minister Stanton, myself and my officials are working very hard in order to ensure that the vulnerable are dealt with in a way that’s right and proper in the circumstances.”

O’Rourke: “These 650 beds that have been announced. Are they just being made available on a temporary basis or what is the plan?”

Flanagan: “Well, obviously, direct provision is changing. It’s a challenge that we’ve had in terms of its organisation and management even before the crisis. What we have done now is acquired hotel accommodation in Dublin, in Galway, in Cork and, at the same time, however, we are engaged in procuring new centres in Cahircaveen, for example, in Rosslare Harbour, in Tullamore, in my own constituency. So this is an ever-changing scenario because we want to ensure that our centres meet our own national standards and…”

O’Rourke: “I’m just wondering who gets these 650 beds? Are they all being put to use or are some of them being held back for use, for instance, for isolation purposes?”

Flanagan: “Oh, no. I expect that they would all be brought into use at the earliest opportunity. Obviously when we speak about vulnerable people in society, we talk about people over 65, we talk about people who have underlying or pre-existing medical conditions. In Direct Provision, for example, we have a mere 57 people of the entire 5,600 over the age of 65.

“I’m assuming that these will be the prime candidates for relocation. Similarly people who are vulnerable and obviously looking at areas, for example, where there may be small rooms in centres, that they would be smaller…”

O’Rourke: “Yeah because, I don’t know if you’ve seen the statement form MASI…”

Flanagan: “Yeah, I see them on a daily basis Seán. And…”

O’Rourke: “Yeah, they’re talking, for instance, about the centre in Ennis. A new direct provision centre in Ennis where seven asylum-seeking men were forced to share a bedroom that would suit one person?”

Flanagan: “Yeah, well, I don’t know the size or dimensions of the room. I have seen some, some misleading information on social media. What I am saying, however, and what both Minister Stanton and myself are really keen to ensure is that, for example, social distancing, which obviously is a vital tool in protecting good health, ensuring that we save lives, ensuring that we stop the spread is if we can have our rooms in our centres confirm to these particular standards. And that’s what we’re working towards. And that’s what we will achieve.”

O’Rourke: “And what about health workers who have been living in direct provision. We’ve come across cases of that as well.”

Flanagan:Many of these are working. Many of their talents have been put to good use. And I believe again that is one of the advantages of…”

O’Rourke: “So why didn’t you prioritise for this new accommodation for instance?”

Flanagan: “Yes, well, well, there will be people who are vulnerable, there will be people who are in centres where we are not in a position to comply with the social distancing and I would expect over the next few days you will see a relocation. Firstly, the more vulnerable and then people who are in conditions that might require attention.”

This morning’s interview with the minister follows hundreds of academics in health, law, human rights and migration yesterday publishing an open letter in which they called for own-door accommodation and individualised access to sanitation and eating facilities to every family unit and single person in the international protection system.

They say the the necessary accommodation is available to provide for this and, to not do so, could see the State falling foul of its legal requirements.

It also follows a campaign by refugee and asylum seeker support groups calling on the Government to move out “at risk” residents from the crowded centres where social distancing is, they say, impossible.

Listen back to the interview in full here.

Previously: “Public Health Measures Must Apply To All”

No Room To Isolate

From top: A bedroom in a direct provision centre in Swords, Dublin; Assistant Secretary at the Department of An Taoiseach Liz Canavan; tweets from Graham Clifford, of The Sanctuary Runners

Last night.

Journalist Graham Clifford, who co-founded The Sanctuary Runners, tweeted testimonies from three separate healthcare workers (above) who travel from their crowded living conditions in Direct Provision centres to their healthcare work setting.

It’s not known how many healthcare workers live in direct provision.

It comes amid a campaign by refugee and asylum seeker support groups calling on the Government to move out “at risk” residents from the crowded centres where social distancing is, they say, impossible.

It also comes amid reports on RTÉ’s Drivetime last night that there have been several positive tests in at least two centres.

Further to this…

A group of academics in health, law, human rights and migration has today published an open letter in which they’ve outlined their concerns about direct provision and Covid-19.

They’re calling for own-door accommodation and individualised access to sanitation and eating facilities to every family unit and single person in the international protection system. They say the the necessary accommodation is available to provide for this and, to not do so, could see the State falling foul of its legal requirements.

Just before lunch, assistant secretary at the Department of An Taoiseach Liz Canavan told journalists at a press briefing in Government Buildings that the Government was working “tirelessly” to ensure direct provision centres are “well-prepared” and “able to respond” to any Covid-19 issues.

She said 300 new beds – as opposed to rooms – were recently announced at new centres in Tullamore, Rosslare Harbour and Cahircaveen.

She added: “Further beds are being actively sourced for international protection applicants to better support social distancing measures in centres.”

The letter is addressed to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the Minister for Health Simon Harris, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health Dr Tony Holohan, CEO of the HSE Paul Reid and a number of TDs and ministers in which they’ve outlined their concerns about direct provision and Covid-19.

The letter, signed by around 400 academics and counting, states:

“Dear Government representatives and State officials,

We are specialists spanning fields of health systems, public health, social policy, law, human rights, migration and racism.

We write to express our utmost concern that the State is continuing at this time to require large numbers of people seeking international protection to live in shared bedrooms, and to share sanitary and eating facilities, within the direct provision system.

This has prevented many people from socially distancing according to Government advice, with the aim of avoiding contracting COVID-19 and avoiding passing the virus on to others while they may be asymptomatic.

Many direct provision centres are in rural locations. An outbreak of COVID-19 within a centre, where people have not been in a position to socially distance themselves from one another, could spread rapidly and create a cluster of cases which the local health system in any given location may be unable to manage.

It is also important to note that a number of people living in direct provision centres work as care providers for others in the community.

In every region of Ireland at present there are unprecedented numbers of empty hotel rooms, student accommodation units and self-catering holiday accommodation units.

We implore you to act now, to provide own-door accommodation and individualised access to sanitation and eating facilities to every family unit and single person in the international protection system, given that such action is practicable at this time.

This matter is urgent, given that several cases of COVID-19 in direct provision centres have already been reported.

The small financial allowance provided to people seeking international protection (€29.80 per week for a child, and €38.80 per week for an adult) does not enable those living within the direct provision system to find alternative, private accommodation in order to socially distance themselves from others.

On the other hand, in light of the scale of the emergency socio-economic measures which the Government is putting in place for the rest of the Irish population at this time, it is reasonable to expect the Government also to invest in ensuring the safety of international protection applicants to the greatest extent practicable.

We note that the Government decided in the past few weeks to remove international protection applicants from emergency accommodation (which may have included hotels) into new direct provision centres.

The rationale for this, according to the Minister for Justice and Equality, is that it is easier to communicate HSE advice to people when they are gathered together in direct provision centres.

However, in our view, it is eminently possible to find ways to communicate with people while also ensuring that they are enabled to self-isolate in own-door accommodation.

The Minister for Justice and Equality has further stated that his Department has instructed each direct provision centre to create self-isolation facilities for use by those suspected to have COVID-19, and that the Department of Justice and Equality will pilot ‘off-site self-isolation’ for people suspected of having COVID-19.

There are two major flaws to this approach:

First, as per the HSE’s Guidance and the Government’s current instructions to the rest of the national population, social distancing from others before a person shows signs of infection with COVID-19 is necessary in order to prevent the spread of the virus – since COVID-19 can be transmitted by individuals who are not demonstrating or reporting symptoms.

Second, reports from residents suggest that at least some direct provision centres are creating self-isolation facilities which are manifestly inappropriate, in that they do not allow for physical distancing and provide no privacy for the patient in their illness or recovery.

We further note that the Deputy Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality wrote in the past few days to people living in direct provision centres to assure them that the Department is ‘actively sourcing new accommodation to reduce the numbers in some settings’.

We urge the Government immediately to find as many private rooms as necessary to ensure that every family unit and every single person currently within the international protection system is able to socially distance from others. As mentioned above, the accommodation is available and this matter is now urgent.

The Government’s recently published guidance on ensuring an ethical approach to managing the crisis, An Ethical Framework for Decision-Making in a Pandemic, stresses that the implementation of public health measures should protect the interests of vulnerable populations and ensure that measures taken do not result in increased health inequalities.

In other words, in a pandemic, public health measures must apply to all; every person must be able to benefit from public health support, with the assistance of the State if necessary.

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From top: Bedrooms of direct provision centres in Cork City; Roscrea, Co Tipperary; Swords; Miltown Malbay, Co Clare; Cahersiveen, Co Kerry; Newbridge, Co Kildare; tweet from the Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre in Cork City and a tweet from Graham Clifford, of The Sanctuary Runners

Various refugee and asylum seeker support groups have been calling on the Department of Justice to move people deemed to be the “most vulnerable” out of direct provision centres because of Covid-19.

It comes as asylum seekers, some of whom are healthcare workers, say the Government’s direction for people to maintain “social distancing”, “self-isolation” and “cocooning” is impossible at centres where, in most cases, several people share single rooms.

It also follows councils and the Government spending money on information campaigns about social distancing in public places and on facilities such as Dublin Bus.

Last week it was reported that residents in a direct-provision centre in the west of Ireland were informed a person in their building had tested positive for Covid-19.

Further to this, the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) write:

“Disgraceful but not surprising that the Department of Justice and Equality refused to provide self-contained units for asylum seekers.

Dublin Region Homeless Executive said it would source self-contained units for people in emergency accommodation so that they can observe social distancing. We hope other service providers for homeless people do the same.

The handling of Covid-19 in Direct Provision shows us once more than the provision of accommodation for asylum seekers should be taken away from the Department of Justice and Equality. Direct Provision operators will always put profits above everything.

Solidarity with people in overcrowded accommodation at this time.”

Meanwhile, MASI has posted the following video from the Grand Hotel Direct Provision Centre in Wicklow where a “self-isolation” room is being set up…

Thud.

A petition calling on the Department of Justice to move people deemed to be “at risk” of Covid-19 out of direct provision can be signed here.

Previously: No Room To Isolate

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From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (right) and Health Minister Simon Harris; Naima

This morning.

As groups working with asylum seekers and refugees continue their appeal for the Government to move people most at risk from Covid-19 out of crowded direct provision centres…

Naima, who lives in a centre which has more than 200 residents, has written an open letter:

Dear Sir/Madam,

“The routine is the same every morning. I wake up, grab my phone and text the lady a few rooms up the corridor to check that she’s okay. On Tuesday, last week, she started to display flu-like symptoms. Her GP referred her for a Covid-19 test, which she still hasn’t had, and she was told to self-isolate.

There are 234 people living in our Direct Provision centre, there is no space for more self-isolation rooms. We are scared, we are anxious – what happens when more start to get sick? Where are we supposed to go?

My main concern is for the older and more vulnerable people. There are five individuals aged 60, or over, in our centre but many more with underlying health issues. One woman in her sixties had cancer treatment recently. Another has a rare genetic condition which means her immunity is compromised. Another younger woman had a stroke not so long ago.

These people need to be moved out of Direct Provision and Emergency Accommodation centres now before it’s too late. What exactly are we waiting for?

We don’t understand how people at risk on the outside are being asked to cocoon and keep social distance but we’re being kept together – and many are still going out to work every day in vital front line services. They, and we, need to be protected.

The woman who is in self-isolation shared her room with two other women. They haven’t been tested but their GP does not think they have the virus. In other centres we know there are many more people to one room.

The HSE posters about the importance of hand washing are up in the centre and there is an attempt to promote social distancing but it’s just impossible – there are 81 children in our centre.

Over the last two weeks we’ve been asking what the plan is for when people start falling ill in greater numbers – no one can tell us.

Please start moving people now. There is no time to wait. We cannot look back in a few months and say ‘if only’. We need action today. Taoiseach, Minister Flanagan, anybody – help us.”

Letter from Direct Provision Resident – MOVE THE VULNERABLE OUT (The Sanctuary Runners)

Yesterday: No Room To Isolate

Rollingnews

From top: Bedroom at a direct provision centre; letter from Refugee and Migrant Solidarity Ireland to the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan

Today.

The group Refugee and Migrant Solidarity Ireland has written to the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, calling for “at risk” people who are living in direct provision centres to be relocated from the centres where they say social distancing is “impossible”.

The group also states that they are making the appeal with “some urgency” as it has received reports of possible cases of coronavirus in the centres.

It has also called on centre managers to allow residents to bring food to their rooms because, in some centres, groups of more than 100 people are congregating in dining halls for meals, a situation that is “against Government recommendations”.

Finally, the letter states:

The State must provide compensation to those with the right to work who have lost their jobs because of this crisis. The DEASP has confirmed that international protection applicants are not eligible for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

“This is unacceptable, especially in the light of reports of some direct provision centres that are forbidding residents to return to the centre if they go to work.”

Meanwhile…

Yesterday.

Oluwaseun Ola, who has been living in direct provision for six years, writes:

“Putting  the finishing touches to a poem I’m writing and I found this (above), it was written by my 9 year old daughter.

As much as I’m proud of her, it hurts to see that she’s aware of the “class” she belongs.

I’m waiting for that day I’ll walk out of this system.”

Previously: Direct Provision on Broadsheet

Cathal Clarke writes:

Theophilus Ndlovu, aka ‘Touché’, came to Ireland seeking asylum in July 2016 and has spent the last 3.5 years living in Direct Provision in Galway.

As a talented spoken-word and hip-hop artist, Theo has made enormous contributions to the Irish community, performing at countless cultural and charitable events across the country.

Theo is facing imminent deportation and we’re appealing to Broadsheet readers to sign the Uplift petition below requesting [Minister for Justice] Charlie Flanagan to revoke this order.

Save Theo (Uplift)

Free next Thursday week?

January 16, 2019, at 6.30pm.

In Phizzfest’s The Space, an arts and culture venue in Phibsborough, Dublin 7,

They write:

“Phizzfest The Space is delighted to present ‘Another Ithaca’: an evening of poetry, prose and conversation, which celebrates cross-cultural artistic collaboration as it considers the issue of direct provision in Ireland.

‘Another Ithaca’ comes out of Correspondences, an acclaimed anthology edited by Stephen Rea and Jessica Traynor, that pairs writers, photographers and visual artists in the direct provision system with Irish writers and artists (all proceeds to Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland).

…contributors Katie Donovan, Incaf Yalsinkaya, Jessica Traynor, Marwa Zamir, performance poet Mimmie Malaba and others to be announced will read from their work and discuss the remarkable artistic journey of cultural intersection and mentorship that led to the anthology – along with the wider issues around direct provision.”

Another Ithaca – a cross-cultural evening of literature (Facebook)

Correspondences (Stinging Fly)

Earlier: “The More People You Have In A Centre, The More Money You Can Make”

East End Hotel in Portarlington, Co Laois which is being used as a Direct Provision centre; inside a room at the centre

On Friday.

The group Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland circulated a video (top) which shows 10 beds in one room for asylum seekers living in a direct provision centre at the East End Hotel in Portarlington, Co Laois.

It was later shared by journalist Barry Whyte, of Newstalk, and Senator Catherine Ardagh called for the centre to be shut down.

The Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said he was seeking a report on the matter.

On Saturday, the Department of Justice released a statement claiming the video was “staged”.

It said:

“The Department has been informed that this video does not represent the reality at this facility. Hotel management has informed the Department that last night, a number of residents moved themselves from their assigned rooms into the room shown in the video.

“The footage circulating appears to have been staged and the residents involved have been asked to return to their allocated rooms.

“Similar claims were made about the accommodation in the hotel last Autumn and subsequent Department inspections confirmed that the accommodation arrangements at the hotel had been misrepresented in a staged video at that time.”

In response, MASI last night rejected the department’s claim.

In a statement, MASI said:

“We reject claims made by the Department of Justice and Equality and the management of East End Hotel in Portarlington that footage showing appalling conditions in the centre was staged by asylum seekers.

“At 7.21pm, on the 3rd January, 2020, MASI tweeted a video recorded by asylum seekers in the East End Hotel in Portarlington.

“The video showed 10 beds in a room that has no windows. The room also does not have a cupboard for the men to store their clothes.

“In the video, some of the their clothes can be seen on the beds and on the floor.

“About six months ago, on the 5th August 2019, MASI issued a statement after visiting several centres, where we noted how appalled we were that the East End Hotel had five people in one room.

“For this, the owner was being paid at least €5,250 per month – the average for a Direct Provision centre.

“And since this is an emergency Direct Provision centre and the average cost is more than double for emergency accommodation,the owner is likely being paid a lot more than this per month.

“We met with staff from the Department of Justice and Equaliry including the Head of RIA (Reception and Integration Agency) on the 29th August, 2019, and raised the indignity of having to live with no privacy in overcrowded rooms.

“The Department seemed to be more concerned about the number of beds they can find and not the rights of the people being moved around the country like a yoyo with no say on the matter.

“Such is the case of the men who shared the video. The 19 men had been staying in Treacy’s Hotel in Co Monaghan before being transferred to the East End Hotel in Portarlington on the 3rd January 2020. This is when they were shocked and appalled to find 10 beds in a room with no windows and cupboards to store clothes.”

The statement added:

“On the 4th January, 2020, the management in the East End Hotel went to the room and moved some of the beds into one corner, embarrassed by the video circulating online.

“The Department of Justice and Equality issued a statement which suggests that they called management in the East End Hotel who claims the conditions in the room were staged by asylum seekers.

“They also claim that different footage recorded by different asylum seekers, showing similar conditions in the East End Hotel, published by the Independent on 5th october 2019, was staged.

“Contrary to the claims of management and the statement released by the Department of Justice and Equality, staff claim that they did indeed put the 10 beds in the room because another room was not ready for occupation when the men moved in on the 3rd January 2020.

“At not point did the Department of Justice and Equality speak with the affected asylum seekers to find out what happened.”

Members of MASI Lucky Khambule and Bulelani Mfaco later travelled to the hotel in Portarlington on Saturday but they were denied entry.

They were only able to speak with some of the asylum seekers staying at the hotel outside the hotel.

The statement adds:

“Denied entry, MASI met outside the centre with some of the asylum seekers staying in the East End Hotel and were horrified by the testimony they shared with us from being threatened by management, told you can go back to your country if you are not happy, and being denied an empty glass to use to drink water.

“This showed us that the problems in the East End Hotel are beyond just a number of beds in the room but extend to the general conduct of the management team.”

“At the very heard of these overcrowded rooms in Direct Provision and emergency Direct Provision centres is profiteering through the asylum system.

“Private operators of these centres are paid public money by the Department of Justice and Equality for each person staying in the centre, not per bedroom.

“In other words, the more people you have in a centre, the more money you can make.

“In July 2018, we were told by the Department of Justice and Equality that the average cost per person in Direct Provision is €35 per day which brings it to €1,050 per person for each month.

“…on the 5th January 2020, we received texts from asylum seekers in the East End Hotel in Portarlington telling us that they have since been moved to a different room that has five people (do the maths).”

MASI has said it has written to the Ombudsman and asked for an independent investigation into the matter of overcrowding in emergency accommodation and in Direct Provision centres.

Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (Facebook)

UPDATE: