Direct provision resident ‘had to carry’ sick child (8) for two miles
Galway-based woman could not afford transport to bring son home from hospital
The Eglinton direct provision centre in Salthill: the boy was discharged late at night, meaning it was too late to catch a bus home from hospital. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
A mother in Co Galway says she had to walk two miles with her sick child on her back from hospital to the direct provision centre where she lives as she could not afford transport.
The mother and her two children live at the Eglinton direct provision centre in Salthill and walk two miles to and from school each day because the bus is too expensive, the Galway Anti Racism Network says.
The network wants the Government to ensure a proportion of the money paid to private contractors running direct provision centres is set aside for transport needs to avoid asylum seekers regularly having to walk long distances.
The network, which was established in Galway last year, was recently approached by the African woman who said she had to carry her eight-year-old son from hospital as she was unable to afford a €10 taxi fare.
The woman travelled to Galway University Hospital with her sick son last month by ambulance, the network said. The young boy was discharged late at night, meaning it was too late to catch a bus home.
Joan Lally, who works with the network, said the woman was deeply distressed after the incident and is worried about her son’s health.
Ms Lally said she had recently met the husband of a woman who is seven months pregnant and says she has had to walk to and from all her hospital appointments.
The couple, who live in direct provision, are no longer able to make the journey by foot as the woman is close to term.
“I also drove a woman home from hospital who had just had a baby,” Ms Lally said. “Without me she would have had to walk home with her newborn baby.”
Ms Lally said asylum seekers were too afraid to speak out about this sort of issue “for fear of being deported”.
In a letter to The Irish Times, members of the network wrote that “instead of profiting off the backs of asylum seekers, these centres should be required to provide transportation for their residents, who receive only €19.10 weekly and are not allowed to work or study”.
The network says contractors of direct provision centres should provide “a minibus to transport residents into and out of city centres and to hospitals in cases of emergencies”.
Figures published by the Department of Justice earlier this year showed that eight contractors operating a network of direct provision centres were paid €43.5 million for their services last year.
At the end of last year, there were 4,619 residents in direct provision centres with an additional 79 people living in self-catering accommodation.
“If you’re forcing people to live off €19.10 a month, then give them bus passes. We expect that a certain amount of Government funding should be used to provide some sort of transport,” said Joe Loughnane, one those who signed the letter.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice said they would have provided transport support for the woman and her son had they known about the situation and that they would “continue to support people living in direct provision where necessary”.