Irish government accused of breaking EU law by housing asylum seekers in ‘inhumane’ conditions

Photo of a child at the protest of asylum seekers in Ireland holding up a sign that says "Let our voices be heard".
Bryan Wall

An NGO has called out the Irish government for its treatment of asylum seekers. The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) said the government is housing asylum seekers in “inhumane” conditions. And it argued that they lack food, proper healthcare, and access to “basic necessities”. It declared that the government is in breach of EU law as a result.

A country-wide problem

In a press release, MASI stated that it travelled around Ireland to various direct provision centres to interview residents. Direct provision is the system by which the Irish government houses asylum seekers. It revealed that it was “appalled by the absence of support for vulnerable asylum seekers”. One member of MASI, Donnah Vuma, said that – at one hotel she visited in Limerick – she met:

an asylum seeking mother with an infant that was just 20 days old and had no nappies or baby formula.

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The hotel’s response was that it’s “contracted to provide a bed and 3 meals a day”. MASI declared that it sees this all over the country in direct provision centres ( “emergency accommodation centres”). In a hotel in Bray, for example, MASI stated that residents aren’t allowed visitors.

At another direct provision centre, a curfew of 10pm exists for men. And in one case, MASI said direct provision contractors had given food to asylum seekers which was months out of date.

Lucky Khambule of MASI asserted that:

it is disgraceful that the Irish government is spending a lot of public money on contractors who starve asylum seekers in order to maximise profit.

Violating EU law

But MASI went further. It said it also believes the Irish government is in breach of EU law. Specifically, it argued that the government is breaching an EU directive on the living conditions of asylum seekers. The directive requires that asylum seekers have access to basic necessities. This includes proper living conditions, access to healthcare, including mental health services, and access to employment.

The Irish Refugee Council (IRC) previously criticised the government for not introducing the directive’s orders.

But despite this, the government continues to use direct provision – originally introduced in 1999 as a so-called “emergency measure”. And now, 20 years later, asylum seekers are still suffering because of it.

The government is well aware of what goes in the direct provision system. Multiple organisations have given evidence as to what asylum seekers go through in Ireland. Yet the government continues to house them in a clearly unsuitable and failing system. In some cases, they’ve been waiting nearly ten years to find out if their asylum applications have been successful.

The Irish government must stop treating asylum seekers with inhumanity and indifference. Instead, it must start living up to its legal and ethical obligations. And that begins by scrapping the direct provision system.

Featured image via Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (used with permission)

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