Hundreds of people risk being killed in fires at a number of direct provision centres where residents have been found to be cooking in their rooms due to a lack of independent facilities.
An investigation by the Irish Independent in 2020 found that asylum seekers were covering smoke alarms and blocking fire escapes so they could secretly cook for themselves while spending months or years in the controversial direct provision system.
The most recent investigations available into direct provision centres show that cooking equipment, including fryers, are still being kept in bedrooms and smoke alarms are often being covered up.
An inspection carried out at the Knockalisheen direct provision centre in Co Clare last October found one individual cooking on three
different hot plates on the floor of their room.
The same inspection found smoke alarms had been covered in 15 rooms, with cooking equipment – including hot plates and gas cylinders – also found in 15 rooms.
More than 200 people, including families, were staying at the centre at the time.
Residents at the centre do not have their own cooking facilities, and are offered food in a dining hall.
Ten different rooms at the Marian hostel direct provision centre in Tullamore, Co Offaly, had cooking equipment in them, according to an inspection carried out last November.
More than 100 people, including families, were staying at the hostel at the time.
It has three cooking stations.
In response to the inspection report, management said they sent reminders of the house rules to those who had cooking equipment in their rooms.
“All rooms followed up with recent inspections, no evidence of cooking appliances,” a letter from the manager said.
People were also trying to cook food in their rooms at the Eglinton Hotel direct provision centre in Salthill.
An inspection carried out last September found a fryer, a mini hob and a rice cooker in one person’s room.
Food splashes and marks were also found in another room that had a hot plate and a mini oven in it.
Another resident had a hot plate, mini grill and fryer in their room.
Air fryers and sandwich makers were also found in other rooms, as were more hot plates.
In response to the inspection report, management at the hotel said they acted “immediately” to address the issues uncovered in it, and removed cooking equipment from all rooms where it had been found.
More than 100 people were living at the centre at the time of the inspection.
Residents there do not have their own cooking facilities.
Cooking equipment was discovered in six different rooms in the Johnson Marina direct provision centre in Tralee, Co Kerry, last November.
In another room, a smoke alarm was covered.
Management said they had reminded residents about the “house rules regarding cooking equipment”, and had removed cooking equipment from bedrooms.
The 90 families and single women staying at the centre do not have independent cooking facilities.
Evidence of cooking was found in six rooms at the Drishane Castle direct provision centre in Millstreet, Co Cork, when inspectors visited last December.
Smoke alarms had also been covered in a number of rooms.
Management at the centre, where more than 200 people were staying, said they had advised residents to use the centre’s kitchen facilities for cooking.
An inspection of the Clonakilty Lodge direct provision centre in Co Cork last September said management “shared concerns” about a woman with young children who appeared to be cooking in her room.
The Government has vowed to abolish direct provision and replace it with a new, not-for-profit model of accommodation for asylum seekers.
Roderic O’Gorman, the minister responsible for equality and integration, has said the new model would be based on a “human rights approach with a focus on dignity, respect and privacy for all”.
Last month, Mr O’Gorman said the refugee crisis prompted by the war in Ukraine had an “unavoidable” impact on his department’s attempts to replace the current direct provision system.
Sinn Féin’s spokesman on equality Pa Daly said that while nobody could have planned for the situation in Ukraine, the Government’s white paper on abolishing direct provision was 14 months old at this stage.