Reliance on volunteers to aid asylum seekers must end – charity

Limerick non-profit calls on Government to ensure asylum seekers receive basic supports

The State should not continue to rely on volunteers to wash clothes for asylum-seeking families in emergency accommodation, a Limerick human rights group has said.

Seán McSweeney, chief executive of Doras Luimní, says local people have been providing laundry services to some 30 asylum seekers in the Maldron Hotel in Limerick for seven weeks, bringing batches of clothes into their homes for washing and drying.

The Department of Justice cannot continue to rely on the generosity and goodwill of local people and charity groups to ensure asylum seekers in emergency accommodation centres receive basic supports and services, Doras Luimní has said.

Mr McSweeney underlined that it was the Government’s responsibility to provide these services and its failure to meet the residents’ basic needs was in breach of Ireland’s obligations under EU law.


Doras Luimní has brought a number of issues around accommodation in the Limerick hotel to the attention of the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of the Department of Justice in recent weeks. These issues include a lack of baby formula supplies for parents with young children, restrictive meal hours, no cooking facilities, no access to refrigerators for medical supplies and children’s bottles, and a lack of transport options for residents. Asylum seekers with children also have no information on whether their children should be enrolled in local schools for the coming year, the charity said.

EU directive

Some 30 people, including six children and another six babies under five months, have been staying at the Maldron since July 1st.

“Emergency accommodation can no longer be passed off as temporary measure by the Department of Justice,” said Mr McSweeney. “The State has an obligation to provide for the basic needs of international protection applicants, under the EU Reception Conditions Directive, regardless of capacity issues.”

“Emergency accommodation, where private contractors are only paid to provide bed and board, is entirely unsuitable and inappropriate, particularly for children and families,” he added.

A Maldron spokesman said he could not comment on individual guests but noted that asylum seekers were provided accommodation on a “full-board basis consistent with how all our customers are service. Services beyond that are the responsibility of the RIA and Department of Justice”.

An RIA spokesman said the safety and wellbeing of all residents was “of paramount importance” and that its priority was to ensure people living in emergency accommodation were moved into direct provision centres in the shortest time possible. He underlined that efforts were being made to move all families into dedicated family locations with laundry facilities.

The Department of Education provides school places for children in centres, he added.

There are 1,087 people living in emergency accommodation, in addition to the 6,212 people living in direct provision centres. A report published on Thursday showed 2019 spending on direction provision and related accommodation and ancillary services is set to reach €120 million; up from €78 million last year.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast