Asylum seekers can no longer rely on charity

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Doras Luimní chief executive Sean McSweeney. Photo: Cian Reinhardt
Doras Luimní chief executive Sean McSweeney. Photo: Cian Reinhardt

DORAS Luimní have warned that charities can no longer continue to cover basic needs of residents living in emergency accommodation.

The Limerick-based human rights organisation is now calling on the government to take responsibility for provision of basic services and essential supplies.

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Emergency accommodation has been in use for 10 months across the country, accommodating more than 1,000 people in over 30 centres.

Founded by a small group of dedicated volunteers in 2000, Doras claim that the residents of emergency accommodation in Limerick have been dependent on donations from individuals and organisations since their arrival in early July 2019.

The non-profit organisation maintains that basic services, supports and essential supplies have not been adequately provided by the Department of Justice and Equality to date. They also say that the dependency on the generosity and goodwill of local individuals and organisations cannot be sustained indefinitely.

“Doras has been working with local organisations to ensure that basic laundry services are available to residents for the past seven weeks but this interim service, which is provided voluntarily by individuals and organisations, cannot continue because of limited resources. Providing such basic services is clearly the responsibility of the State and failure to provide for residents‘ basic needs is a breach of Ireland’s EU and international obligations,” said CEO of Doras, Sean McSweeney.

“The provision of interim laundry services to residents is now being discontinued and we expect the Department of Justice to take responsibility and commence laundry services in the coming days, as they should have done seven weeks ago.”

Mr McSweeney went onto say that emergency accommodation, where private contractors are only paid to provide bed and board, is entirely unsuitable and inappropriate, particularly for children and families.

“Essential supplies for young babies, such as baby formula, have not been adequately provided by the State, with families relying on donations from our supporters and voluntary groups. The school term starts in a matter of weeks and families have no information available to them about how long they will be living in these precarious conditions and if parents should try to enroll children in local schools,” he added.

Chairperson of Doras, John Lannon said this week that emergency accommodation can no longer be passed off as a temporary measure by the Department of Justice.

“The State has an obligation to provide for the basic needs of international protection applicants, under the EU Reception Conditions Directive, regardless of capacity issues. Doras will continue to monitor the situation and we will liaise with the Department of Justice on this until appropriate solutions have been implemented.”

In response, a spokesman for the Department of Justice said: “Emergency accommodation providers have been informed by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA)  that in any instance where a resident needs nappies, baby hygiene products or feminine hygiene products and cannot afford them, they should be provided to the resident and RIA will refund the cost directly to the provider.”

The Department of Justice spokesman also told the Limerick Post that the contractual obligation on the providers of emergency accommodation is for the provision of bed spaces and the provision of breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“The vast majority of premises are able to provide on-site laundry facilities. It is important to note that, often, RIA does not have exclusive use of the premises. Many of our emergency accommodation providers are operating commercially as hotels and guesthouses concurrently, along with providing RIA with accommodation,” he concluded.