Seanad debates

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Skellig Star Direct Provision Centre and the Future of Direct Provision: Statements


10:30 am

Annie Hoey (Labour) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister for coming here today and I look forward to the work to be done by both her Department and that of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on the matter. I will speak specifically about the Cahersiveen case, using many of the words of the people who are there. In their words, the people in Cahersiveen are already victims of trauma, including torture and rape. There are over 100 residents in a 56-room hotel and it has been known since April that this accommodation was unsuitable because, even outside a global pandemic, sharing rooms with non-family members is not appropriate. We have evidence from a number of people who stated in April that this was not suitable accommodation. Dr. Tony Holohan stated it was not possible to observe social distancing when sharing rooms with people who are not part of a family. There have since been 23 confirmed cases of Covid-19 at the centre, including in one child. I ask the Members present to think for a moment about what this is like. These people have fled a country, experienced torture and rape and were terrified of their lives before being put into a hotel in Ireland at one end of Ireland and mixing with people they do not know while a virus is spreading and residents in the accommodation are getting sicker. This is not the island of a thousand welcomes that Ireland is supposed to be.

When the Minister announced she would come to the House today, I very quickly took time to speak with representatives from the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, MASI. I spoke with some of the residents in Cahersiveen working with some of the people in the centre and, through them, one of the residents. The representatives of MASI were on their way to the centre but I have received a message to say they were not allowed into the direct provision centre to speak with residents. Why are these people from MASI not being allowed to speak with residents when they advocate most for these people?

They also want to know if the Minister will intervene and listen to the residents who have been traumatised over the past few months, not to mention their experiences in the past few years. The statement from the residents of the Skellig Star has gone around and I am sure the Minister has seen it. Will she ensure access to a social worker in order that these people can have their health catered for and monitored regularly? Will the Minister ensure the residents can be transferred to an appropriate accommodation centre, such as Tullamore or Mosney, where a proper vulnerability assessment and adequate treatment for trauma can be done? When the Minister's officials went to the centre, why did they only speak with one resident and refused to speak to residents as a group. The residents do not want to be separated and they want to speak as a group. They fear what will happen to them if they are separated. There are currently 41 residents left in the facility and 30 residents have left. Do we know what happened to those residents? Where are they? Are they on the streets, where they might perceive it to be safer for them than staying in the Cahersiveen centre? What exactly is the Minister going to do about those 30 residents?

Immediate action must be taken. I have a quote from a resident that was given to me a few minutes ago, who said:

They should understand the emergency of our situation, and hence we have gone for so serious a step as a hunger strike. This is not something to discuss leisurely for days. Immediate action must be taken.

I ask the Minister what immediate action she will taken, not to close the centre in a matter of weeks or months, but rather a matter of days. The test of this Minister and that of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, in the context of how they seek to end this system, will be how they treat the residents of Cahersiveen in the coming days.


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