Government urged to expedite asylum applications

Galway mayor Terry O’Flaherty critical of leaving people in institutional conditions

Asylum seekers, refugees and human rights supporters march from the Dáil to the Department of Justice in Dublin yesterday to protest as part of a national day of action to end direct-provision living for asylum seekers. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Asylum seekers, refugees and human rights supporters march from the Dáil to the Department of Justice in Dublin yesterday to protest as part of a national day of action to end direct-provision living for asylum seekers. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Wed, Apr 24, 2013, 18:03

Mayor of Galway Cllr Terry O’Flaherty (Ind) has criticised the fact many asylum seekers spend prolonged periods in direct provision accommodation with no entitlement to work.

“I don’t know what the motive is for leaving people in institutional conditions for three, four and five years, when applications for asylum should be processed within six months,” she said yesterday. “I’d call on the Government to get this sorted.” She described the work ban as “demoralising”.

She was addressing an event in the Town Hall Theatre, hosted by the Galway Friendship Group as part of the Irish Refugee Council’s day of action. “I understand there are 300 people [in direct provision] in Galway, and this is quite costly also,” the mayor said. She believed foreign nationals should be allowed to “make a contribution” to society.

Cllr O’Flaherty paid tribute to the schoolchildren – both Irish and foreign nationals – who contributed artwork, poems and prose to a related exhibition.

The pupils from Scoil Róis primary and Taylor’s Hill secondary, the Presentation primary and secondary, and St Nicholas’s primary schools were asked to interpret the experience of a family living in one room with no right to cook their own food, no play areas and an allowance of €19.10 a week for adults, and €9.60 per week per child.

Poems and prose
“If I told you about my life, would you listen?” reads

one poem submitted by a 10-year-old asylum seeker. “If I told you how different my life is to yours, would you believe me? . . . If I died, would you notice?”

Another contribution is written in the form of an open letter to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter: “Although it is hard for Ireland with the recession and everything and you might be thinking why these people came to Ireland . . . well it’s because they are in need.”

Abi, a Nigerian mother of four in Salthill’s Eglinton Hostel for six years, thanked Cllr O’Flaherty. She described the impact on children of mixed-sex accommodation, and said her children did not want to come back to the hostel after visiting friends’ homes. Sr Caitriona Gorman of the Dominican Community said a concern was unaccompanied teenagers living in direct provision.