Tag Archives: MASI


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

This morning.

In Committee Room 2 in Leinster House.

Members of the Irish Refugee Council and Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) – including Lucky Khambule and Bulelani Mfaco – are appearing before the Oireachtas justice committee.

They are discussing direct provision and the international protection process.

Just yesterday, the Ombudsman Peter Tyndall said direct provision centres are unsuitable for longer-term occupation and called for a formal resettlement programme to be put in place.

At the end of his opening contribution, Mr Mfaco said:

“We are human beings, like everyone, like all of you. All we ask is that we be treated as such. The very fact that people have to ask the Government to treat them humanely should shame all of you.”

UPDATE:

Donnah Vumah, of MASI, told the committee that there is a dearth of mental health services available to people living in direct provision.

She said the “only thing there at the moment” are posters in the centres telling people they can contact The Samaritans or Spirasi (an organisation which helps survivors of torture who are asylum seekers, refugees, or other disadvantaged migrant groups).

However, Donnah said securing an appointment with Spirasi requires asylum seekers to get that appointment through a referral from a solicitor or from a GP and that usually takes a “very long time”.

She added:

“This is why we find that a lot of people tend to turn to things like sleeping tablets or alcohol, they develop a lot of addictions such as gambling addictions because they are trying to find a way to cope with living in that situation.”

Lucky Khambule told the committee that the number of suicide attempts in direct provision centres has increased in the past 18 months.

He said last year alone there were five deaths in direct provision.

He said some of these deaths concerned individuals with mental health issues while some were using sleeping tablets.

“We feel this is not qualified obviously, that the provision of the tablets, in terms of addressing the mental health issue, is the wrong one. The psychological traumas that people do face in direct provision are the things that need to be addressed in a very, very serious way.

“Otherwise we will see more deaths happening in direct provision because we ignore the signs that are there on mental health issues.”

MASI member Tinda Ndlovu told the committee that she and her three children live in Direct Provision.

She said that her eldest child, aged nine, has previously said to her:

“Sometimes when I feel sad, I feel like kiling myself.”

Mr Mfaco, who is gay and living in Knockalisheen Direct Provision Centre in Clare, spoke about homophobic slurs that he has received at the centre.

He said he doesn’t trust anyone in the centre and when he goes to eat in its canteen, he will sit somewhere with his back against the wall as he doesn’t feel comfortable.

He added:

“You have staff members in direct provision who also undermine privacy for individuals.

“I was sitting in my room one day and they knocked once and they opened the door. It’s a lady who worked in Knockalisheen. She knocked once, she opened the door and I was sitting in my room getting ready to go and have a shower.

“So obviously I had my underwear on.

“The next time it happened it was a manager in Knockalisheen direct provision centre who walked into the men’s showers, in the men’s block…She opened the door in the men’s showers, she looked, and then she closed the doors and said ‘sorry’ as she walked away.

“It’s a man’s shower. What are you expecting to see there? Like privacy means nothing to them.”

“We’ve had similar incidences in Hatch Hall Direct Provision Centre and in Balseskin Direct Provision Centre [both in Dublin] where either a staff person walks into a room where a person is naked or another resident walks into a room and the person is naked.”

“We’ve had experiences from children who feel unsafe in the way that men look at them, creepily, it’s been reported in the news.

“…women who feel unsafe sharing those intimate living spaces with other people because a lot of the women, some of them would have suffered torture or sexual violence and to be placed then in a position where you feel you’re unsafe again becomes very cruel.”

Mr Mfaco also spoke about the sexual exploitation of some people living in direct provision.

He said:

When people aren’t allowed to work legally, it creates then the openness for whoever wants to exploit them to actually do… and we’ve had people who come to MASI who work from 7am in the morning until 5pm and they are only paid €25 to €27.

“It becomes very difficult then for a person to live a normal life because they don’t have a sense of what their rights are once they are actually given permission to leave – they might just continue with that exploitation.

“We’ve also had people being offered money for sex in direct provision.

“Because people know that there are people who are getting paid €21.60 per week, it’s now €38.80, and you have to live.

“I’ve been offered money for sex, there are children who’ve been offered money for sex, there are women who’ve been offered money for sex.

“So it becomes very, the exploitation, we don’t know to what extent that it is happening but we have reports from our work and other people.”

Christopher Sibanda, who has lived in a direct provision centre in Waterford for the past three years and travels to Dublin for college every day – therefore spends six hours on the road – told the committee that he shares a room with three other men.

He said the room is four metres long by four metres wide.

He said he would invite any politician to join him and a spend a night in his centre to see what life is like in direct provision.

He said:

“In that same environment, in that same centre, Viking House, there is no area where if you come today and visit me, where you can sit and talk to me, just greet me. There is none.

“That is not human living.

“The jailer-prisoner attitude that pervades there is not for human beings.

“…the treatment by the centre managements, I don’t know what is in place by RIA [Reception Integration Agency] that has been put in place for training of the people that work there because they do have the feeling that they are jailers there and that we are prisoners.

“And that they are doing favours for us.

From the kitchen staff – you get people being thrown with plates of food. Some times those plates will fall and people will laugh.

That happens to human beings [inaudible] who will be in a queue by the way and you will then beg for food.

“If you happen to miss a meal, you miss a meal, you know you’ve missed a meal, you can come back, the same food that has not been served because I missed meal obviously, there will be leftovers, cannot be served to me because I’m out of meal time.

“That is not human.”

Mr Sibanda also said he cannot take a lunch from the centre with him when he leaves for college.

Mr Mfaco also spoke about how many children and adults “warehoused” in direct provision centres are prevented from integrating in Irish society and, in fact, “segregated” from Irish people.

He said:

“Like when you go, get off the bus in Limerick city centre. You see all these brown people, you actually see Irish people staring at us and going ‘where did this bus come from?’

“It has brown people. They don’t look like, they look different, it only has them.

“Everybody knows it’s from a direct provision centre.

“When the bus shows up at the school. Some of the school kids are ashamed, of their friends to know, but everybody knows that that school bus is going to take them to a direct provision centre.”

Mr Mfaco said it’s a similar situation for adult asylum seekers when they go to their local Post Office to collect their weekly allowance.

“Everybody in the queue, everybody in the Post Office staff, know that that person lives in a direct provision centre.

“…you’re constantly reminded of how bad your life is, and you’re constantly reminded that you are not considered part of Irish society. You’re divorced from social life, you can’t really socialise on €38.80 while you’re living in Mount Trenchard [Limerick], there is no public transport.

“There is no public transport in Knockalisheen and other direct provision centres as well.”

He later added:

We get called ‘welfare scroungers, fee loaders. We’ve had, in the election campaign, we’ve been called freeloaders, we never asked.

“When an asylum seeker came to Ireland, they never asked the Irish Government for a plate of food. Nobody arrives at Dublin Airport and says ‘I’d like to have food please’.

“So when you tell me that you’re providing me with food, I never asked for any of that, I asked for protection. 

“So it becomes very difficult to even begin to talk about integration for us when we have people being warehoused in direct provision centres without access to very basic everyday things.”

The meeting can be watched in the video link above and here.

Previously: In Direct Provision For 14 Years