Asylum seekers transferred ‘with 10 minutes notice’ after protest

Two men helped stage protest against conditions at Limerick direct provision centre

An Irish direct provision centre for asylum seekers. Photograph: Rory O’Neill.

An Irish direct provision centre for asylum seekers. Photograph: Rory O’Neill.

Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 01:00

Two men have been transferred from Mount Trenchard direct provision centre for asylum seekers in Limerick after helping to organise a protest against conditions there.

Management has said the protests were not about conditions at the centre but about delays in the asylum system in general.

However, one of the men, Ahmad Alhassen, yesterday described morale in the centre as “very bad” and said that there were “unbelievable” problems with maintenance, food and overcrowding. Relations are also poor with management. Mr Alhassen says he and others have been making complaints “for over a year”.

On Thursday morning he and other asylum seekers blocked staff from entering the building until the owners, Alan Hyde and Ted Murphy, agreed to listen to them.

A local NGO, Dorais Luimní, which provides support to migrants, was called in to negotiate. Alan Hyde was also in attendance. According to one of the negotiators, Matt Cannon, the talks “went well” and another meeting was set for Thursday August 21st to discuss the progress of the first set of agreed improvements.

Shortly after the departure of the NGO representatives, Mr Alhassen was given a transfer letter by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), the body that manages the direct provision centres on behalf of the Department of Justice. He says he was given “10 minutes” to pack his things and was brought by taxi and Garda escort to Westbourne, another direct provision centre in Limerick.

He said that he was “in shock and very upset”. A second man who was also a spokesperson was issued with a transfer letter and taken to the Glenvara residential centre in Cork.

Matt Cannon of Dorais Luimní expressed concern at the speed of the two men’s transfer and observed that they had been among the “calmest and most measured” in the group.

Hunger strike

In a separate meeting Mr Cannon spoke with four men who were going on hunger strike as a protest against the direct provision system itself.

Yesterday a management source within the centre said: “There was a disagreement between the residents and the management. Their issues were not with the centre or the management. They have been waiting a while for their status. Some of them are here about eight years, some of them five years. That’s just the process.”

The source added that gardaí had been called after a group of men had caused a “disturbance” and that the two men taken away had been part of the hunger-striking group. This has been denied by both Mr Alhassen and Mr Cannon.

There have long been reports of substandard facilities at Mount Trenchard Centre which provides accommodation for single males.

Broken showers

According to an RIA inspection report – now available online – the showers on one floor of the building were broken.

Some of the residents have been in the centre for more than 10 years.

The Irish Refugee Council told The Irish Times the centre was “one of the worst within the system”.

There is no independent complaints mechanism for those in direct provision. Dorais Luimní said events in Mount Trenchard sent “a worrying message”.

Department of Justice figures released last year showed that Mr Hyde and Mr Murphy were paid €9.8 million by the department between 2000 and 2010.

More up-to-date figures for their companies are unavailable as they have unlimited status. They run four other direct provision centres.

Mr Hyde had not returned calls to The Irish Times at the time of going to press.

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