Saturday 20 October 2018

Asylum seekers in angry protest at Millstreet centre


ISSUES over living conditions, food and space brought angry asylum seekers out in protest in Millstreet this week.


On Tuesday, dozens of asylum seekers picketed the Drishane Castle in Millstreet Accommodation Centre following what they claim has been years of living in poor conditions.

Staff at the centre were advised to leave on Tuesday morning as refugees demonstrated against their living conditions. A member of staff had their car covered in graffiti and rubbish as part of the protest.

The protest followed an alleged instruction from management that the centre's children, all on their summer holidays, must be kept in their rooms when inside the centre unless accompanied by an adult.

"We came out to protest because of our situation here," Dorothy, one of the protestors, told The Corkman on Tuesday.

Dorothy fled to Ireland from Zimbabwe in 2006, at a time when President Robert Mugabe was the source of international scorn for his human rights abuses and economic mismanagement. Having spent a few months in Dublin, Dorothy was moved to Millstreet, where she has lived with her two children ever since.

Dorothy outlined a litany of her complaints against the Drishane Castle Centre, from cramped rooms to the food served. She also claimed some of the rooms were damp and there were cockroaches.

The Department of Justice this week told The Corkman that 230 people currently live in the centre, but Dorothy claimed there is not enough space to adequately house them all.

"There are people who have three children who live in one room. A woman who has four children, she, her husband and four children are living in one room," she claimed.

Matters came to a head this week, Dorothy explained, following the instruction to stop children playing in the corridors unless accompanied by an adult.

"Yesterday we held a meeting, the kids have nowhere to play. They don't have a playing area or a TV room where they can sit down together, there's nothing like that."

"Why would the kids be in their room? This is summer, they don't have anything to play with. They don't have a swing, they don't have a see-saw," she added.

However, photos taken by our photographer clearly show a swing on the grounds outside the building. However, residents say this is close to a river, without any fencing to safeguard the children.

A Department of Justice spokesperson said that all centres are subject to surprise inspections.

"All centres are subject to unannounced inspections by both RIA (Reception & Integration Agency) staff and an independent company called QTS. As far as possible, accommodation centres are inspected three times annually.

"In addition, RIA staff visit centres to conduct 'clinics' where residents can speak one to one with RIA staff without management being present," the spokesperson said.

The Corkman understands that the owners of the centre had agreed to meet with the residents to try to resolve the residents' issues following the protest on Tuesday.

Thomas Duggan of Millstreet Equestrian Services, which runs the centre, agreed to meet with residents on Wednesday, according to reports.

Insp Tony Sugrue of Kanturk Garda station also confirmed that gardaí in Millstreet will also hold a monthly clinic in the centre to address issues that require Garda assistance.