Asylum seekers claim centre is ‘like a prison’

ASYLUM seekers have described their government reception centre in Co Cork as being “like a prison”.

Research has found almost all of those interviewed were suffering some form of psychiatric disorder.

Dr Syed Irtaza Hussain, registrar at St Stephen’s Hospital in Glanmire, Co Cork, carried out research on 30 adults in the centre, located in an unnamed town in Cork.

His findings, published in the Irish Psychiatrist, show:

* 80%-90% suffered chronic sleep problems, low mood and worry about their future.

* 70% (15 men and five women) suffered post-traumatic stress disorder.

* 30% (six females and three males) suffered depression and anxiety.

* 40% of the centre’s population are children, but there are no playgroups or playgrounds for them

The 30 people (18 male and 12 female) spoken to include nationals from Sudan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh and Nigeria.

Dr Hussain said there was a general sense of despair among the asylum seekers, largely due to the extreme unlikelihood of being allowed to stay.

He said just 25 out of 1,600 asylum seekers were approved for refugee status or other forms of humanitarian protection in 2010.

“Hopelessness arising from the high refusal rate (90%-96%) for asylum status was considered one of the most traumatic experiences by most of the asylum seekers having waited for 8-12 months,” Dr Hussain said.

“Asylum seekers describe the prevalent atmosphere in the reception centres as prison-like. During the [interview] sessions asylum seekers said they were all day inside the reception centre and had nowhere to go to or interact with and felt like they were in prison.”

Dr Hussain said there were no transport arrangements for asylum seekers, except for GP visits. They could not afford bus tickets to Cork city because their weekly allowances were very small — €19.10 for adults and €9.60 for children.

The doctor said all these factors took its toll on their mental health. “Almost all people in the focus groups were suffering from some kind of psychiatric disorder including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.”

He said the lack of availability of halal food for Muslim asylum seekers, and the absence of separate cooking facilities, badly affected personal health.

He gave an example of a 13-year-old daughter of a Pakistani family who lost almost one stone in four to six weeks due to unpalatable reception centre food.

Dr Hussein said claimants, including families with children, live in “very small, badly lit and often over-crowded rooms”.

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