Asylum seekers in a former hotel in Macroom are not being given proper access to medical care, or allowed food in their own rooms, and until this week, had to walk their children 2km to school.
A TWO-tier system is being set up for asylum seekers that offers less favourable conditions compared to those staying in actual direct provision centres, a group against direct provision has claimed.
Anti-Deportation Ireland made the claim following a recent meeting with residents of an emergency temporary accommodation centre at the Riverside Park Hotel in Macroom.
Issues of major concern included access to food outside of meal times, as well as access to medical care and transport, as well as a lack of play facilities for the children there. Since the meeting, the Department of Justice has moved to ease some of the residents’ concerns.
It is estimated that up to 60 people are staying at the Riverside after the hotel suddenly closed last month, but no figures have been confirmed by the Department of Justice.
A spokesperson at the time said that the hotel is only being used as an emergency temporary accommodation centre and that it will not be a new direct provision accommodation centre.
Speaking to The Southern Star, Joe Moore of Anti-Deportation Ireland – a group comprising volunteers, as well as current and former asylum seekers – said they met with some of the residents outside of the premises recently, because management does not allow meetings on the premises.
‘Since these new emergency temporary accommodation centres came about, the Department of Justice refuses to say how many exist because they say that it is commercially sensitive, but we understand there could be up to 30,’ said Joe.
‘What is happening here is that there is a new parallel system being set up and the people staying at these centres are having less favourable conditions than those staying at the direct provision centres,’ he claimed.
Joe said examples of these ‘worse conditions’ include families not being allowed have food in their rooms outside of meal times.
‘The food there, they said, is fairly basic and boring, and the residents have no input into what’s available. It’s just chips, burgers etc. They have three meals a day with the last one provided at 6pm, but one of the house rules is that they are not allowed bring food to their rooms.’
Originally, the families were not allowed access to food after this time, but following a meeting with hotel management, this matter has now been resolved.
Accessing medical care is another cause for concern for the residents as they have been told no local GP service is available, as they are all full.
‘They have been told by the management that if they have an issue, then they can go to SouthDoc, but that’s an out of hours service so it’s not available during the day. If they have any issue, they are forced to wait until 6pm or else call an ambulance. There just seems to be no planning going into emergency temporary accommodation centres,’ added Joe.
Getting to the local schools was initially proving a problem for the parents of school-going children.
‘It’s about a 2km walk from the Riverside Hotel into town to the schools and the parents had to bring them in. For example, a shuttle bus is provided for the children at the direct provision centre in Millstreet, but, until earlier this week, none was available for the people in Macroom.’
A schoolbus shuttle service has been in place since last Monday doing two pick-ups for primary and secondaries, but only after representations on the residents’ behalf.
He believes that without being organised into a committee, the residents would have found it difficult to achieve these improvements in recent weeks. And Joe would like to see a shuttle bus for adults to access town also for shopping and accessing services, similar to the situation in the Direct Provision centre in Drishane in Millstreet.
‘Our biggest fear is that these new parallel systems could equally become permanent with residents in these centres having less favourable conditions than those in direct provision centres.’
They are calling for the whole direct provision system to be shut down and for asylum seekers to be treated like everyone else and get access to the jobs market and third level education.
‘When direct provision centres were first set up, in 2000, they were meant to be temporary, but 19 years later they are still with us. These emergency temporary accommodation centres seemed to have crept in last year and it now seems we have as many of these as we have direct provision centres.’
Joe went as far as saying that there are parallels between these centres today and the Mother & Baby Homes of the past. ‘But yet it is being allowed in this country and it seems that the State has a track record in keeping people in institutions.’
Meanwhile, a local group that is helping the asylum seekers in Macroom have been busy in recent weeks holding fundraising events and taking in donations like school uniforms and bags, buggies and strollers from people around the town.
Síle Ní Dhubhghaill of Macroom Friends of Asylum Seekers said: ‘The people of Macroom have been incredibly kind and we had a wonderful afternoon tea party at the pitch and putt clubhouse recently.
‘But there are lots of issues facing the residents, including accessing urgent medical care, and a lack of space for parents to store special food.’
This week the Department of Justice issued a statement, saying that if any resident has an issue they would like to raise, they should contact Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) directly so that it can be resolved as quickly as possible.
It added: ‘Emergency accommodation is used as a temporary solution until people can be re-accommodated in one of the RIA’s accommodation centres. The number of international protection applicants arriving in Ireland continues to rise. In the first half of this year alone, we have seen a 36% annual increase in the number of applications received, which has resulted in a significant strain on accommodation resources.’
It also confirmed that, as a result of this increase in numbers, the RIA is now using hotels and guesthouses as ‘emergency accommodation’.