Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Justice and Equality
Direct Provision System
311. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the issues raised in correspondence by a group (details supplied) regarding health and safety risks in a direct provision centre in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11108/20]
353. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to issues raised in correspondence by a group (details supplied) regarding serious health and safety risks in a direct provision centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11066/20]
367. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if he will issue an official response to correspondence from a group (details supplied) regarding serious issues in the direct provision centre in a town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11188/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 311, 353 and 367 together.
We are taking the issues raised in relation to this emergency accommodation premises extremely seriously. The welfare of residents is, at all times, our key concern.
On 4 June, officials from the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department held a clinic via video call with residents of the centre. This was attended by 12 of the 19 residents currently residing at the centre. The clinic was held off-site in the local Community Centre and was facilitated by a volunteer from the Limerick and Clare Educational Training Board (LCETB). Other than the residents and the facilitator, only the manager of the Community Centre and the caretaker were present onsite at the time. Each resident attended their own clinic appointment in a separate room away from the facilitator and the manager of the Community Centre to ensure privacy and confidentiality.
The majority of residents who attended the clinic stated they were happy with the food and with the accommodation in general. A small number of the residents who participated in the clinics stated that the food was not to their liking.
Following the clinics, an unannounced visit was made to the accommodation the next day (5 June 2020) by a senior official from my Department. During this visit, a number of issues raised in recent correspondence to my Office were investigated. I can confirm that during this visit all rooms were viewed and that no health and safety issues were identified. My officials will be following up with management and residents on any of the issues raised during the recent clinics.
Concerns had previously been raised with my Office around rodent activity on the premises and water leaking. I am advised that there was no evidence of any rodent activity or water leaking on the day my official visited. When questioned by my official on these matters, the owner confirmed that a resident had reported mice in his room in February. The owner engaged a pest control company who could not find any evidence of rodents. They subsequently monitored the room for three weeks and could not find any evidence of rodents. Regarding the water, I am advised that the owner confirmed that an incident occurred some months ago where water was leaking from a bath/shower on the second floor into a bedroom on the first floor. It was reported to him by the residents in the room and he sought to engage a plumber. One of the residents said he was a plumber and asked if he could fix it. It was addressed within a few hours and no reoccurrence of the leaking has been reported since.
Furthermore, my official identified no concerns about the quality or variety of food available during their visit. Food is prepared onsite by a professional chef and all meat is Halal certified. Residents also have use of the kitchen for special occasions and regularly cook meals of their choice from food supplied by management. Recently arrangements were also made, during Ramadan, for residents to use the kitchen at night.
I can also advise the Deputies that IPAS officials previously visited the premises unannounced on 13 February last, on foot of concerns raised by a local support group. During the course of this visit, they inspected all bedrooms and recreation rooms and the kitchen and dining facilities and they had lunch with the residents. I am advised that my officials did not find any major issues to report and the residents they spoke to did not raise any issues about the standard of the centre. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) also carried out a visit to the premises in February as part of a programme of visits to a variety of centres over a two week period. No specific issues were brought to my Department's attention regarding the premises arising from their visit.
Our intention is to accommodate all international protection applicants currently living in emergency accommodation in dedicated accommodation centres as soon as places become available. In the meantime, I hope that this information will provide you with some reassurance on the current situation in the location mentioned.