Gardaí investigate allegation of rape in direct provision centre

Woman put in shared accommodation after alleged attack, and says she has not heard from Department of Justice

The woman underwent a full medical examination before a garda accompanied her back to the hostel the following day. Photograph: Frank Miller

The woman underwent a full medical examination before a garda accompanied her back to the hostel the following day. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

Detectives are investigating an allegation that an African woman seeking asylum was raped by another asylum seeker in a direct provision centre four months ago.

A full medical report has been prepared and the Garda has confirmed it is investigating an “alleged sexual assault of a female” and that a man was arrested, but has been released without charge.

The woman was moved by the authorities from the centre after the alleged attack to a women’s refuge where she spent one month. She was then moved into emergency accommodation for asylum seekers where she has been living since April.

However, the woman, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, says she feels forgotten by the State because she now has to share a room, rather than the single room she says was promised.

In an interview with The Irish Times, she says she was told she would be given her own room to ensure privacy while she recovered but has been sharing with another woman since arrival.

The woman, who came to Ireland from an African country seeking asylum last year, says she was raped by another resident in the direct provision centre where she lived in the early hours of March 1st.

The attack, she alleges, happened after she attended a birthday celebration for a roommate in one of the centre’s bedrooms: “When the others left the room I went to the bathroom and he came from behind and attacked me.

“He dragged me back into the room and raped me. I was fighting back for a long time, I fell to the floor and hit my head. The whole thing took about 40 minutes, maybe an hour. He was quiet the whole time, he didn’t say anything,” she says.

Hospital

Afterwards, the woman says she returned to her room and tried to sleep. The following morning she told her roommate what had happened and they went to hospital. She underwent a full medical examination before a garda accompanied her back to the hostel the following day. A copy of the woman’s medical records has been released by the hospital to the woman’s solicitor.

“I was feeling very bad, I felt ashamed and I was worried the guy had infected me. The garda explained what had happened to management. It was a duty security guard and it felt like he didn’t believe me. Then I was taken to a women’s refuge.”

There, she received psychological support. However, she then learned she would be moved back into direct provision. “They explained I had to leave because the other women were not seeking asylum, they were Irish women.”

Medical treatment was given, too, but further scheduled tests were put on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Gardaí checked on her twice while she was at the refuge.

However, she says she has not had contact from the Department of Justice since she was moved into emergency accommodation. Management there told her she could not be moved into a private room because space is not available.

“There is not much support here, they don’t know much about me. I only talk to my solicitor. It’s all too much for me. I thought I would be safe in this country. I came here because I needed safety but I’m so worried now.”

Lack of privacy

Gender and anti-trafficking expert Dr Nusha Yonkova says securing single-occupancy rooms has always been problematic for victims of sexual abuse or trafficking living in direct provision.

“These women are often unable to cohabit as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder. Sleep is so important for their recovery, but it’s psychologically damaging to be put in with another woman. The only solution is privacy.”

Direct provision centres are “micro-societies and so they have their flaws”, says Dr Yonkova.

“We’ve ended up in a situation where women can be violated in what should be a safe space. There aren’t many cases of this, but it does happen and gives rise to enormous concern.”

The Department of Justice spokesman said it took the safety and wellbeing of direct provision residents “very seriously” and accusations of sexual assault are “treated with the utmost seriousness”.

The International Protection Accommodation Service will “endeavour to support the resident in every way possible”, said a spokesman, adding that it would not comment on an individual case.