Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald was yesterday challenged by asylum seekers protesting in Cork to come and see what they have had to experience for up to nine years waiting for assessment.
Theresa is one of 250 asylum seekers who was protesting at the Kinsale Road Reception and Accommodation Centre on the outskirts of Cork against the direct provision system
The residents began their protest on Monday against both the conditions at the state owned centre and the general direct provision system which forces them to stay in such centres
Theresa said that the residents had a meeting with staff on Tuesday which lasted over three hours and staff promised to address their concerns on issues relating to the centre.
“The staff promised to do things about local issues here in the centre such as food and accommodation but they said they had no control over the general policy of direct provision.
“They said it is a matter for the Department of Justice but we never see the Department of Justice - I would like the Minister for Justice to come and see how we are forced to live.
"The Minister for Justice and the Reception and Integration Agency need to see what it's like to try and raise two children in a centre like this - it's not natural and it's not right," she said.
Therese thanked staff and management at the centre for their willingness to listen and their pledge to try and improve the situation but the national policy needs to be addressed, she said.
"We have made them realise that this protest is not about what we can get - it is about human dignity and equal human rights and social justice in Ireland, " said Theresa.
“There has been much condemnation in Ireland and rightly about the Mothers and Baby homes and the Magdelene Launderies but direct provision system is as big a scandal.”
The protesting residents have maintained a 24 hour presence at the entrance to the centre as they operate a rota system to allow some people get sleep during the night.
“The children go into bed but we have kept the protest going throughout the nights - the men always ask the women to go in but we want to be here to show solidarity,” she said.
“The unity here on the protest cannot be imagined - the spirits are high - we are suffering but we are happy because we feel our voices are being heard and that is so important for us.
“When we started, we didn’t know what kind of support we would get but it is amazing - I shed tears when I think of how people - both Irish and immigrant - have come to help us.
"Farmers from the Wilton Farmers Market have given us food, individuals we don't even know asking is there somewhere they can send money for us to get a list of things we want.
“The immigrant community too have been so supportive including former residents who know what are going through - they have come along to lend their support.”
Theresa's comments were echoed by another resident, Lucky from South Africa who said Cork City Council had backed a call to end direct provion but had no power to change it.
“All they can do is send letters to the Minister Justice but we really need to end this system of direct provision because it is unjust and inhuman - it has to end,” said Lucky.
Contacted by The Irish Times, the Dept of Justice said that the Reception and Integration Agency was continuing to monitor the situation at the Kinsale Road Centre.