Death of asylum seeker with heart condition should be 'clarion call' for reforms

Death of asylum seeker with heart condition should be 'clarion call' for reforms
Cork University Hospital

The death of an asylum seeker with a serious heart condition just weeks after his transfer from Dublin to Cork without medical notes should act as “a clarion call” to the Government that reforms of the asylum system haven’t gone far enough.

And NASC, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre, which was supporting the man and his wife in the weeks before his death, is also warning that a similar tragedy could happen again because “vulnerability assessments” for asylum seekers, which were enshrined in law last June, have not been introduced.

NASC spoke out yesterday after an inquest into the death of an Algerian man in Cork University Hospital (CUH) on August 12, 2017.

The man cannot be named for legal reasons.

Cork City Coroner’s Court heard how the man and his wife sought asylum in Ireland in January 2017 and were living at the Balseskin reception centre in Dublin.

The man had an inherited cardiac disease and was receiving medical treatment in Dublin’s Mater hospital from January to June 2017 when he and his wife were earmarked for transfer to the Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre in Cork.

Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre
Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre

Despite concerns from NASC, the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) proceeded with the transfer.

The man's widow told the inquest that he suffered hugely by being forced to take repeated trips by bus from Cork to Dublin for hospital and asylum appointments in the weeks after their transfer.

On August 12, 2017, he was rushed from the Kinsale Rd accommodation centre to CUH where he later died.

Death was due to natural causes.

The next day, his grieving wife was transferred back to Dublin and given a double room at an accommodation centre where she is still living.

NASC welcomed “significant improvements” in the asylum process but said RIA's refusal to consider transferring the man back to Dublin on foot of an urgent request over his declining health is "acutely worrying".

NASC’s campaigns manager, Jennifer DeWan said: “People claiming asylum are fleeing conflict, persecution, torture, trauma, sexual and gender-based violence.

"Providing accommodation for them is not just providing a bed and three meals a day – it is about providing a package of supports and services that takes into account the sometimes traumatic and difficult experiences they have had prior to arriving in Ireland."

“Since June 2018, the Irish government has put the provision of asylum accommodation on a statutory footing, in line with the EU Directive on Asylum Reception Conditions.

This means that, amongst other things, the government is statutorily obligated to take into account the additional supports and services that must be made available to asylum seekers in the provision of accommodation.

“This includes a vulnerability assessment, which must be offered to every person who enters the asylum process, which is supposed to help determine a person’s ‘special reception needs’, including where a person should be accommodated and what supports and services they require.

"The Government has yet to implement this assessment, despite the fact that it has been in legislation since June 2018.

"The vulnerability assessment and the requisite supports needed to fully implement the outcomes of individual assessments must urgently be provided – not least to help prevent another tragic death like this in Direct Provision.”

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