Wednesday 17 July 2019

Review after no one told of funeral of woman who died in direct provision

Sylva Tukula: She was buried before her friends had been contacted
Sylva Tukula: She was buried before her friends had been contacted
Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

There are mounting calls for a review into the handling of deaths in direct provision after it emerged that a transgender woman was buried by the State without her friends' knowledge.

Sylva Tukula, who was aged in her 30s and lived at an all-male facility in Galway, died in August of last year .

She was buried in May, after efforts to contact her next-of-kin in South Africa failed.

The Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has said he regrets the matter and has stated that what happened to Ms Tukula will not be repeated.

"I offer my condolences and my sympathy to her friends in the community.

"My ministerial colleague David Staunton has been in touch with the community... I understand a suitable and appropriate commemorative service will be held at the earliest opportunity," Mr Flanagan said.

The Irish Refugee Council (IRC) has called for an "urgent" review into how the State handles deaths in Direct Provision.

The organisation has said there needs to be clear processes in place as well as transparent and open investigations into the circumstances.

"Given the nature of Direct Provision, it is particularly important that there is an open investigation by an independent inspectorate to identify the facts and circumstances surrounding a death and to identify any shortcomings or failings which may have occurred," the IRC said in a statement.

"This is something which happens routinely where there is a death in custody.

"It is also important that friends, family, and other residents in the centre are adequately supported and are kept informed at all stages, including regarding burial arrangements.

"It is heart-breaking for the friends of Sylva to learn of her burial after it has happened. When responsibility shifts between agencies at State level, irreparable mistakes are made. A clear process must urgently be put in place which has the dignity of the person and the welfare of friends and family as its primary goal," it added.

The LGBT+ Teach Solais said their "dear friend Sylva was failed by the system in which she was entrapped" and said that it must never happen again.

"This abhorrent news has left many in shock, with those in the direct provision sites feeling that they will be buried alone thousands of miles away from people they grew up with by the Irish state.

"Anyone who has had a loved one pass away would empathise with how this has affected those that knew her, and how devastating this act would feel.

"We are left with more questions than answers as to how this has been allowed to occur," LGBT+ Teach Solais added.

Irish Independent

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