160 asylum seekers protest at Waterford direct provision centre

Residents angry at delays in having their applications processed, says mother of four

File photograph of asylum seekers protesting against the direct provision system in Dublin last year. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

File photograph of asylum seekers protesting against the direct provision system in Dublin last year. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

 

Some 160 asylum seekers at a direction provision centre in Waterford have begun a protest this morning against conditions at the centre and the entire direct provision system.

Residents at Birchwood House began the protest at 6am, locking out staff and preventing deliveries to the centre on the Ballytruckle Road in the city.

One of those protesting, mother of four Mabel Ulamen, told The Irish Times that residents were angry at the delays in having their applications for asylum processed.

“Some people here have been waiting 11 years for a decision on their applications - I myself have been waiting nine years, and that is just too long to live in this type of centre,” she said.

“If we had to wait just a few months, that would be understandable, but in my case myself and my husband and four children are living in just two rooms and nine years is just too long.”

Ms Ulamen, from Nigeria, said most of the residents at Birchwood House are from Africa with some from Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Kenya.

“We are all just tired and frustrated with the direct provision system - we want the Government to change it - it’s not right that families should have to live in these type of conditions for so long.”

Ms Ulamen said the protest began at about 6am when some 30 residents mounted a picket. Other residents are preparing to join them later this morning after getting children to school, she added.

It is the first time there has been a protest at Birchwood - a former convent - but the residents feel they are left with no alternative but to protest to highlight their grievances, she said.

Last month saw protests at direct provision centres in Athlone, Foynes, Portlaoise, Kinsale Road and Ashbourne House in Cork as asylum-seekers grew increasingly frustrated with delays in the system.

Ms Ulamen said Minister of State for Equality, New Communities and Culture, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, visited Birchwood House on Monday to meet residents.

“We met with Minister Ó Ríordáin and gave him a letter detailing our concerns - he said he could make no promises, but we made him very aware of our situation here and our unhappiness with it.”

In August Mr Ó Ríordáin, said the direct provision system was “not humane” and needed to be reformed as a matter of priority.

“I won’t stand over a system of people living in limbo for years on end. It’s not acceptable that children have to grow up in direct provision centres,” he said.

He had recently visited a direct provision centre at Hatch Hall in Dublin which was designed to house people for short periods but said many people had been living there for years.

“I visited a direct provision facility at Hatch Hall and the experience of the people living there would be tolerable to a degree if you were living there for weeks and months - but not for years,” he said.