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Sixty-one asylum seekers - including 16 young children - died while in 'direct provision'

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Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald TD. Picture: Damien Eagers

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald TD. Picture: Damien Eagers

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

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Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald TD. Picture: Damien Eagers

Sixty-one asylum seekers - including 16 children under the age of five years - have died while in the 'direct provision' system, it has emerged.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said one of the deaths was believed to have been a suicide involving a newly arrived asylum seeker taking his own life while in hospital.

The figures released to Sinn Féin's Michael Colreavy cover the 13-year period from 2002 to 2014.

The Government's Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) stated that neither the HSE, coroners or healthcare providers have ever indicated that the direct provision system played any part in the deaths of asylum seekers.

Ms Fitzgerald confirmed that three of the infant deaths were believed to be still-births.

The RIA said in most cases the deaths would have occurred outside the asylum centres, such as in hospitals.

It pointed out health services to asylum seekers are provided similarly to Irish citizens.

"Information available to the RIA indicates that the causes of death ranged from cancers, heart conditions to traffic accidents and, in the case of deaths of children under the age of five, it is believed that a number were suspected cot deaths and still births," it stated.

Men made up 66pc of deaths.

Irish Independent