Refugees urged to use complaints procedure

The Department of Justice plans to renew efforts to ensure residents of refugee and asylum seeker centres fully engage with an established complaints procedure.

The news emerged last night after talks took place to resolve a range of issues following a protest, on Tuesday, by residents of Drishane Castle in Millstreet, Co Cork, over allegations of cramped conditions, poor pest control and food quality.

The Irish Examiner has established that the complex was inspected three times already this year — in March and twice in May — all of which were unannounced.

This compares to just two inspections in 2012 of the complex, run by Thomas Duggan of Millstreet Equestrian Services, for the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA).

The department said issues from the recent inspections were being resolved before Tuesday’s protest.

Ugandan national Jane, who arrived in Ireland in 2006, has been living in Drishane Castle since Mar 2007. She has two children, aged five and four: “I came to Ireland for protection but have been living here in this centre now since 2007 waiting for a decision.

“It is not a good example. I am sharing one room and a tiny bed with my kids. The problems have been going on for a while.”

She said residents have complained repeatedly about cockroach infestations and food quality.

“Someone went to the dining room to get food and the bread they gave out was out of date. Last week, they served sour porridge and children vomited,” she said.

Mr Duggan declined to comment yesterday, directing queries to the RIA.

The Department of Justice said a delegation of residents met with the proprietor for 90 minutes after the protest, and again yesterday morning. “A plan is being put in place to deal with the concerns raised,” a spokesman said.

However, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre (Nasc) said the protest was proof that the system of direct provision is “broken”.

Nasc’s communications manager, Jennifer DeWan, said they have received several complaints over the years from residents of the Millstreet centre but residents are reluctant to pursue official complaints out of fear for their applications.

Nasc CEO Fiona Finn said: “In the short term, an independent complaints mechanism is essential to give residents an outlet for making complaints that they can trust and that will have some impact.

“In the long term, we are calling on the Government to implement a single procedure for asylum applications as promised.”

However, the department defended the independence of the inspection process and said it would work to ensure residents avail of “in-house” clinics where concerns can be raised.

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