By David Raleigh
The Government has an obligation to grant asylum to residents of Direct Provision who have been psychologically harmed by lengthy stays, migrants rights group Doras Luimní said today.
The group said the Government had done nothing to help asylum seekers who have been looking to live and work in Ireland as they seek asylum, which can take years to process.
Last year, as part of a national campaign to end Direct Provision, during which asylum-seekers get €19.10 per week, a series of protests were held around the country's 34 centres.
Doras Luimní said some asylum seekers at Mount Trenchard, Foynes, Co Limerick, have spent up to 10 years in Direct Provision, which has isolated them from their own families and children.
Residents said this has caused them enormous stress and anxiety.
Doras Luimní said many seeking asylum here have fled savage conflicts only to end up in "inhumane" Irish asylum centres where groups of strangers are forced to sleep in the same bedroom.
Asylum seekers are not allowed work and many have become victims to alcoholism, drugs and mental disorders.
Many men have also been separated from their children when they are placed in male-only facilities.
Language barriers, loneliness and perceived lack of freedom are the main problems facing asylum seekers, they said.
Jonathon Muhwezi, 36, a qualified chemist from Uganda, fled his native country six years ago.
"The asylum system is appalling," he said. "The way we are treated in hostels is appalling. There is no procedure for complaints about the management.
"I've got a degree in pharmacy and I want to work but we are not allowed to work.
"I've got two children (in Ireland). I've got one in Cork and one in Dublin. I can't even live with my children. It's appalling."
Doras Luimní's call for the immediate closure of Mount Trenchard has been backed by the Irish Refugee Council.
"Doras Luimní believe that the Government has an obligation to grant permission to remain to those who have already been harmed by lengthy stays in Direct Provision," said Doras Luimní spokesperson, Leonie Kerins.
"The continuous failure of the State to establish an efficient and humane reception system for asylum seekers has meant that thousands of lives have been damaged and they deserve the opportunity to finally rebuild them."
"The Government must commit to developing an alternative reception system that will prevent the institutionalisation of vulnerable men, women and children from happening again."
It is one year since a number of residents were removed by the Gardaí from Mount Trenchard and moved to other centres.
Five men went on hunger strike to highlight their fears for their mental health and physical safety.
One man arrested by Gardaí at the centre appeared in court charged with one count of causing €15,000 worth of criminal damage by allegedly breaking windows, and with one count of threatening to cause criminal damage to the Mount Trenchard property.