The wave of protests by residents of Ireland’s direct provision system spread to a fifth accommodation centre yesterday.
Some 88 residents at the Ashbourne House Hotel direct provision centre in Glounthane, Co Cork, began a hunger strike to highlight the “inhumane conditions” of the system, and the length of time some residents have been forced to live in the system.
“We have been here for too long. We are not allowed to work, to go to school. We are stuck,” one resident, Constance, said.
“We want the centre closed. We want to work, we want to be free. We have been too long in one room with our children. The residents at Ashbourne are mainly families and children make up over half of the total population of residents.”
They demanded the closure of the centre and the right to work and access to third-level education for adults. They also appealed to the local community for support for their plight.
Yesterday’s protest at Ashbourne House is the fifth such protest at a direct provision centre in recent weeks.
They followed the example of the residents of the Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre in Cork City, who began their protest on Monday, and residents at The Montague in Portlaoise, who are also protesting.
Asylum seekers in direct provision centres in Athlone and at Mount Trenchard in Foynes, Co Limerick, have also protested in recent weeks.
Anti-Deportation Ireland (ADI) welcomed the latest protest yesterday.
“On the day that the Government is due to convene its so-called ‘working group’ on direct provision, this protest makes it clear, yet again, that residents want real and immediate change to the system in the form of the complete closure of the direct provision system,” ADI spokesman Joe Moore said.
He said Mount Trenchard and Ashbourne House are owned and operated by Alan Hyde, and the family of his former business partner, Ted Murphy, who died last year.
Companies owned by the two men and their families have received more than €10m in state funding to operate five direct provision centres around the country.
ADI called on the minister for justice and equality to close all direct provision centres, to give asylum seekers the right to work and to access third-level education and to end Ireland’s policy of deportation.
Aodhán Ó Riordáin, the minister of state for new communities, culture and equality, who has responsibility for the direct provision system, told the Seanad on Wednesday that there is a commitment to introduce a separate protection bill to establish a single application procedure for investigations of all protection applications.
“The reform will simplify and streamline existing arrangements and provide applicants with a final decision on their protection application in a more straightforward and timely fashion,” he said. “And it will reduce time applicants spend in direct provision system.”
He said it is hoped to have the heads of the bill published in January, with the bill passed through the Oireachtas by Easter 2015.
But while he defended elements of the direct provision system which he said has enabled the housing and other needs of over 51,000 people, he said people are spending too long in the system.
Almost half of those in the system have judicial review applications pending, are subject to deportation orders or are seeking leave to remain in the State for non protection reasons, he said.
“A recent review of cases suggested that in the overwhelming majority of cases in the system longer than four years, applicants or family members have legal proceedings pending having exhausted all the processes in the system,” he said.
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