Long delays make asylum process ‘worse than prison’

Delays in handling applications and lack of right to work raised during Galway centre visit

The Eglinton hostel in Salthill, Galway. Yesterday’s tour, by Senators and academics, of the Great Western hostel in the city centre and the Eglinton was facilitated by the Reception and Integration Agency.

The Eglinton hostel in Salthill, Galway. Yesterday’s tour, by Senators and academics, of the Great Western hostel in the city centre and the Eglinton was facilitated by the Reception and Integration Agency.

 



Ireland’s handling of asylum seekers is costing 73 times that of Portugal, due to “inhumane” delays in refugee application decisions, according to a group of Galway-based politicians and academics.

“Worse than prison” was how several asylum seekers described the uncertainty caused by such delays during a visit by the group to direct provision centres in Galway yesterday.

The tour of the Great Western hostel in the city centre and the Eglinton in Salthill was facilitated by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA). It involved two Senators, Sinn Féin’s Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Fine Gael’s Martin Conway, and several NUI Galway academics, including Fergal Landy of NUI Galway’s child and family research centre.

“Pretty horrific” was how Mr Conway, who is Fine Gael’s justice spokesman in the Seanad, described his impressions of the visit.

“As a first-world nation with millions of citizens forced to leave, we should know better as to how to treat people,” he said.

Some residents in both centres told the group they had been waiting up to 10 years for a decision on their application to stay in Ireland, while the average delay was five to six years.


‘Inhumane’
“Whatever the quality of the accommodation and food, this uncertainty is inhumane and emotionally detrimental to adults and children,”Mr Landy said.

Mr Ó Clochartaigh, who is Sinn Féin’s justice spokesman in the Seanad, noted that the RIA’s equivalent in Portugal cost €1 million a year, compared with €73 million here.

This was because Portugal, which he had recently visited on a fact-finding trip, handled applications far more speedily.

While a high volume were turned away at point of entry, those that stayed had their applications handled quickly and were encouraged to settle into communities early on, he said.

The right to work and access to third-level education were the two other key issues raised during yesterday’s tour.

The group noted that Ireland was the only country to opt out of the EU reception directive on the right to work after six months. Asylum seekers told them they wished to contribute to the economy, yet Irish people believed they were “draining the economy”.


Prostitution
Some were turning to prostitution, as “no one can live on €19 and 10 cents a week”, the group was told. Lack of money, inability to work, uncertainty over applications and the strain on adults and children sharing one room were causing illness, stress, depression and despair, the group observed.

Recent cutbacks in grants for schoolbooks have also left children in the Eglinton without textbooks, and they are “being ridiculed at school”, the group noted.

Mr Ó Clochartaigh said certain situations could be improved if there was greater communication between stakeholder groups such as Government departments, the RIA, the direct provision centres and NGOs.

“Some of these women told us they were smiling but they were dying inside and there is a lot of despair,” the group noted.

A group of 26 Senators, including Taoiseach’s nominees, members of Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, are moving a private members’ motion on direct provision in the Seanad next Wednesday.

There are 4,624 people in the direct provision system, of whom 1,732 are children.