Irish immigrant support group Nasc, which visited the state-owned Kinsale Road accommodation centre in Cork City last month, said it identified a “worrying level of tension” between residents and centre management.
The support group wrote to the Reception and Integration Agency afterwards advising it to intervene.
However, those tensions boiled over yesterday when some of the asylum seekers, some of whom have been languishing in the 275-contracted capacity centre for almost a decade, mounted a blockade just after 5am. They prevented staff and delivery trucks from entering the facility and have vowed to maintain the blockade until conditions improve.
They have also called for the scrapping of direct provision, and demanded the right to work.
Minister of State in the Department of Justice, Aodhán Ó Riordáin, who has responsibility for the direct provision system, told Newstalk yesterday he has established a working group to examine the entire system.
Centre resident Therese said they being “treated less than animals”.
“People have been in this system for too long. Give us the right to work. Allow us to be part of the system and you will see the change we will make.
“We are not villains. We are not miscreants. We are not criminals. We are human beings and we want to be respected — that is all we are asking.”
Nigerian Therese, who came to Ireland to “seek protection”, said people are no longer afraid to speak out. “I am no longer afraid after nine years. What more do I have to lose? I have lost nine years in the system. My children have grown up knowing only this system,” she said.
Her son Chikamso, nine, who is in fourth class, said he is ashamed of where he lives. “I hate it. I don’t really like to talk about it.”
Another woman described it as a “living hell” trying to raise a family in the centre.
“I hope to give my children a better life, but not this. We are not here to steal or commit a crime. We are here to give our children a better time,” she said.
Dorcas Apendi, who was forced to flee the Congo seven-and-a-half years ago leaving six children behind, said: “I am tired. I need freedom now.”
Another resident, who came originally from Malawi four years ago, and who built stages in Dublin for large international music stars including Jay-Z, before seeking asylum last year, said direct provision is denying people their human rights.
“The system is just horrible. It feels like we are caged. We have 24-hour CCTV, they monitor everything we do, we have to register everyday,” he said.
“People here just want to be in society and be accepted as normal human beings.”
Anti-Deportation Ireland spokesman Joe Moore, who is supporting the blockage, branded direct provision totally “immoral and inhumane”.
“This is the fourth protest at a direct provision centre in the last four of five weeks — Foynes, Athlone, Portlaoise and now here. People are just sick of the situation and what they are calling for is for the full system to be closed down and people to be given residency.
“There are people here who’ve spent eight, nine and 10 years in this centre.
“They all want to work. Some people here are very educated. They could contribute greatly to Irish society and that is being denied,” he said.
“Some of the children here know no other life. They were born into direct provision. They are now eight or nine years living here.
“We won’t know what effect direct provision has on them until they become young adults.
“We could have a situation, maybe not in my lifetime, when some future taoiseach will stand up in the Dáil apologising for this on behalf of the Irish state.”
Earlier this year, the Office of Public Works completed a planned maintenance works on five blocks at the centre. Key concerns for residents
Inactivity is causing stress and depression;
Limited play facilities for children:
Recreation room not fully equipped.
Not food allowed out of the dining hall;
Refused access to milk once dining hall is closed;
Being served out-of-date food and bruised fruit;
Lack of variety in school lunch boxes.
Bus is too small given the numbers of residents;
No school bus for children from the centre.
Cramped conditions where three adults are allocated to a room;
Nationalities and cultures not taken into consideration when allocating rooms;
People on crutches allocated upstairs rooms;
CCTV system intrudes on peoples’ privacy;
System of daily registration makes residents feel like prisoners.