Tag Archives: MASI


Examples of media and social media monitoring carried out by the Department of Justice

In recent days.

The Movement of Asylum Seekers, along with Ken Foxe and Sian Cowman, obtained a tranche of documents totalling 494 pages from the Department of Justice detailing how the department has been monitoring media articles, Twitter exchanges about these articles, and criticism posted on Twitter about direct provision.

MASI has said it has learned that the Department of Justice directed its Transparency Unit to conduct the monitoring after MASI refused to delete a tweet about the death of an asylum seeker at the Central Hotel in Dublin on April 15 last.

The documents show that, on April 16, the Deputy Secretary General at the Department of Justice Oonagh Buckley wrote to MASI members Lucky Khambule and Bulelani Mfaco saying that the department couldn’t understand why MASI tweeted about this death at the hotel “in such an insensitive manner”.

Ms Buckley said that the person who died had family living in Ireland and the gardai were on the way to tell the family about the death at the time of the tweets. She said another department official had asked MASI to remove the tweets on April 15 but that MASI had refused.

Ms Buckley also included a copy of the International Protection Accommodation Service’s Critical Incident Policy (which was established last November).

She also wrote: “Indeed our request was met with another tweet to the effect that the Department was engaging in a culture of secrecy. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Ms Buckley also informed MASI that the letter she was writing to them would be copied to all NGOs “involved in the briefing sessions to date”.

Many may consider MASI’s claim that the department works in secrecy utterly plausible, given it’s unclear how many people have died by suicide in Direct Provision since it began in 1999, how deaths in direct provision are recorded, and especially given the aftermath of the death of Sylva Tukula.

In August 2018, asylum seeker Sylva Tukula, who was living in the Direct Provision system in Galway city, died of natural causes. It later emerged that she had been buried in May 2019 without the knowledge of her friends or fellow residents at the centre where she had lived – even though they were assured they would be notified once arrangements for her burial would be made.

Ms Tukula, who identified as a transwoman, died in the men’s-only Great Western House Direct Provision centre in Galway. At the time of her death, it had been reported that she had requested to be moved out of the all-male centre where she reportedly had a single room.

On April 18, MASI wrote back to the department and highlighted the lack of transparency surrounding deaths of people living in direct provision, saying:

‘The UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, informed by submissions from Irish civil society, recently called on Ireland to, amongst other things, “Ensure transparency regarding deaths in direct provision centres and collect and publish data on such deaths.” The IPAS Critical Incident Policy does not address this.’

The dossier, dated from April 23, 2020 and runs until June, begins with the noting of an Irish Times article which quotes Dr Eamonn Faller, an infectious disease specialist registrar at Cork University Hospital, describing direct provision centres as “powder kegs for Covid-19”.

The article includes calls from the Irish Refugee Council and Sanctuary Runners to have vulnerable people living in direct provision moved out of cramped centres to protect them from contracting Covid-19.

The dossier then goes on to include criticisms of direct provision both related, and unrelated, to Covid-19, until the end of June.

The collection of material includes media articles, tweets about these articles and, separately, tweets about direct provision. It predominantly focuses on tweets from the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) but also includes tweets from celebrities, prominent media figures, politicians, lawyers, journalists, news outlets, civil liberty campaigners, charity and NGO workers, and what the department calls “online activists”.

It mainly involves screenshots of their tweets and links to their individual Twitter pages but also, in many instances, makes a note of the number or ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’ a tweet received. It also notes comments made under media articles.

The full dossier of 15 PDFs can be read here

Last year, solicitor Simon McGarr revealed how the Department of Employment and Social Protection monitored his media appearances  and tweets concerning the Public Services Card.

Meanwhile, yesterday, in a story about the dossier by Ellen Coyne in the Sunday Independent, Ms Coyne reported:

The Department of Justice said it started a new policy of monitoring social media during Covid-19 to improve its communications strategy.

The department said it has also started monitoring tweets about An Garda Síochána, prisons, family law, domestic violence and family courts. It said monitoring social media allowed it to “correct any inaccuracies raised, investigate complaints and respond accordingly”.

Anyone?

Department of Justice officials monitor posts criticising Direct Provision on social media (Sunday Independent)


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: 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…

Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland tweetz:

The M Hotel, former Treacys Hotel in Monaghan. In apartheid South Africa, white people and black people weren’t allowed to sit on same park bench. This is Ireland in 2019 where asylum seekers are forbidden to go into a bar, use main entrance, or sit with Irish people.

Meanwhile…

Last Friday evening…

Lucky Khambule, of MASI, on RTÉ News.

Related: Sarah McInerney: Direct provision strategy has made us withdraw our welcome for migrants (The Sunday Times)

Balseskin Direct Provision Centre on St Margaret’s Road in Dublin 11

Movement Of Asylum Seekers in Ireland tweetz:

There is a mom with newborn in desperate need of a buggie, a baby cot and clothes for an 8 week old baby boy in Balseskin Direct Provision Centre. Please send us a message if you can help and we’ll connect you with the mom.

Anyone?

Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland

From top: Sunday’s Pride March in Dublin; A recent decision from an International Protection Officer at the Department of Justice in respect of a 19-year-old Muslim man seeking asylum in Ireland.

‘Overall, the applicant’s account of the discovery of his sexual orientation lacks detail and specificity of someone who is gay…’

Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland tweetz:

This (above) is a decision issued by an International Protection Officer in the Department of Justice on 14th June 2019. He’ll have to prove his sexual orientation when he appeals.

People were actually happy when the Department of Justice  put up rainbow flag & paid for asylum seekers to go to #Pride…

Previously: Misplaced Pride

A poster from the Department of Justice in a Direct Provision centre in Dublin offering people living at the centre means to travel to Dublin’s LGBTQ Pride this weekend

The Department of Justice has placed posters in some Direct Provision centres in Dublin, telling residents that it will provide transport for those who wish to attend Dublin’s Pride this weekend.

Further to this.

The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland has tweeted its thoughts on the offer…

UPDATE:

Previously: ‘I Was Treated Like A Pariah’

However

MASI

Yesterday: “I Have No Objection Of Members Of The Gardai Taking Part in A Personal Capacity”

Meanwhile..

Oh.

Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland tweetz:

This is the weekly supply of meat for a family of 4 in emergency accommodation for asylum seekers in Wicklow. By not giving asylum seekers enough food, the owner makes more money. End #DirectProvision @LeoVaradkar @CharlieFlanagan @davidstantontd

Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (Facebook)

Previously: Speaking Directly

 

From top: The late Sylva Tukula (centre); Great Western direct provision centre in Galway

Update:

Via The Irish Times:

Sylva Tukula was buried in a HSE-owned plot on May 9th at the Bohermore cemetery on the authority of the city coroner

Galway city coroner Dr Ciarán Mac Loughlin, who signed off on the burial, said he was not informed her friends were waiting to retrieve her body.

“Had we known anyone was interested we would have informed them but no one said anything to me or the bereavement officer in Galway,” Dr Mac Loughlin told The Irish Times, adding that she was found to have died of natural causes.

“We certainly would be very upset if people thought this was done in any surreptitious or underhand manner. It wasn’t, we had nothing to hide behind. If the interested parties had said they wanted to take custody of the body that would have been fine, we would have released it to them.”

A spokesman from the Department of Justice said it regretted “the unintended distress” caused to Tukula’s friends but claimed that despite the best efforts of the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), news of her burial was only released after the event.

Miscommunication between State bodies led to woman’s burial without mourners (Irish Times)

Earlier:

Further to the report yesterday about the death of Sylva Tukula, who identified as a transwoman, in the men’s-only Great Western House Direct Provision centre in Galway and who was buried unbeknownst to her friends in May…

At the time of Sylva’s death last August, it was reported that she had requested to be moved out of the all-male centre where she reportedly had a single room.

Several weeks after her death, Sinn Féin TD Donncha O’Laoghaire tabled a question for the Tánaiste Simon Coveney and the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, in which he asked about the criteria transgenderpersons in direct provision must meet in order to be accommodated in centres of their preferred gender.

In response to the question, on September 20, 2018, Fine Gael TD and Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton said:

“All persons seeking international protection are offered accommodation under regulation (7) of the European Communities (reception conditions) Regulations 2018. In offering that accommodation a number of factors are considered including whether a person requires any special reception needs

Where a person concerned has disclosed their self-determined identity to the Reception and Integration Agency, they are, in so far as is possible and practicable, assigned accommodation based on their needs.

At any time during a recipient’s stay in an accommodation centre, the option to request a transfer to a more suitable centre is also available to them.

“The policy of the Reception and Integration Agency is to promote equality, prevent discrimination and protect the human rights of all. Staff within accommodation centres receive regular training to equip them with the skills to support all residents.”

However…

Two months later, the Government was still being asked to guarantee transgender asylum seekers be housed in accordance with their gender identity.

A study by the National LGBT Federation (NXF) led to the publication of a report called Far From Home: Life As An LGBT Migrant In Ireland which was published in November 2018.

Co-authored by Dr Chris Noone, Dr Brian Keogh and Dr Conor Buggy, the study was dedicated to the memory of Sylva who contributed to the design of the research.

One of the study’s recommendations reads:

“Direct provision should be ended and replaced with a more humane way of welcoming asylum seekers. In the meantime, actions need to be taken to protect members of the LGBT community who are living in direct provision from isolation and homophobia.

These include guaranteeing that LGBT people are accommodated in areas where they can access LGBT-specific services, that they are housed in accordance with their gender identity and that they are kept safe.”

Last night, The Department of Justice and Equality said of Sylva’s death:

Members of staff in the Department of Justice and Equality express their sympathies and condolences to the friends and colleagues of the deceased. Ms Sylva Tukula

All deaths and serious incidents that occur within accommodation centres provided by the Department are referred to the Gardaí Siochana as a matter of course and the Gardaí in turn refer all deaths to the local Coroner’s office.

As is the case with all Gardaí/Coroner matters, the Reception and Integration Agency is not privy to information pertaining to individual investigations carried out under their remit.

This afternoon, MASI, Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland responded:

It is totally regrettable and unacceptable that a [Department of] Justice spokesperson can come out and cry crocodile tears, that it was unintentional for them to secretly bury one of our own just like that.

More than we hate the system of direct provision, the one thing that it does is it brings us together and we become a family, not by choice.

We are a family in these centres from very strange circumstances.

When one of us suffer, we all suffer, we feel each other’s pain.

When we are even denied the very moment to say properly ‘goodbye’, it simply demonstrates how we are not treated as human beings in Ireland under the racist system of direct provision.

How do you undo what has been done already, we are hurting and no amount of sorry will ever change what you have done and are still doing to our people.

We are still yet to know the actual cause of death, even this will be kept as secret. Shame on you, Minister for Justice] Charlie [Flanagan].

Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (Facebook)

Pics: GCN

Yesterday: Buried Alone

Previously: Speaking Directly