Calls for closure of Foynes direct provision centre

The Mount Trenchard Direct Provision Centre.

CALLS have been made to shut down the Mount Trenchard Direct Provision centre in Foynes, with one resident referring to it as being like “Guantanamo Bay’.

A new report from the Doras, the Limerick-based advocacy group for refugees and asylum seekers, conducted research into the experience of the 85 residents in the facility.

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In its ‘Experiences of Living in Direct Provision’ report published last week, Doras researchers said that the residents they interviewed “volunteered the information despite fears of the perceived consequences of speaking out against the system.

In a statement on the findings, Doras said the report; “demonstrates the damaging effects that living there has on residents. Despite making a range of short-term priority recommendations to the Department of Justice’s Reception and Integration Agency (now the International Protection Accommodation Service) earlier this year, there has been no improvement in conditions there.

“Because of this, Doras is now calling for its immediate closure.”

The research, which was completed in Spring 2019, “raises serious concerns in four key areas. These are: safety and well-being of residents; the isolated location of the centre; physical living conditions; and operational and staff issues.

One resident said that after a year a resident who arrived in a normal mental state “is not normal. He is brain dead.”

Another said; “There are people there who have schizophrenia and they are standing in front of mirrors talking for eight or nine hours straight. You can hear them at night time.

“You can hear people crying at night time. Believe me, for a grown man to cry, it’s really bad.”

Interviewees specifically identified the general lack of activities or social outlets as directly correlating to issues such as addiction and substance abuse.

One resident said they contacted the Ombudsman’s office about mental health issues at the centre.

“They said somebody would be there but nobody came whatsoever. There are still people there who are mentally sick. There are still people there who cut themselves. There are still people there who would take drugs and sleep for two or three days straight. They take alcohol for two or three days, just to escape their reality. But nobody has come”

All of the residents participating in the research said they do not feel safe. One man sleeping in a room designed for eight people said he sleeps with his door open so he can make his escape if he is threatened.

Residents were of the opinion that night-staff who are described as “security’ are just ordinary staff.

All described a terrifying self-harm incident.

One resident told the story of a man asked for a pillow at reception but his request was refused.

“So he slashed his hand and blood was everywhere. When we called for help,  they didn’t send an ambulance, they send the Garda and that was after an hour.

“After that, the ambulance came. He almost died that day. And he lost a lot of blood. We had to patch him up ourselves. We had to rip our own shirts because the staff had locked the door.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Equality said there “are concerning aspects of the report.

“The International Protection and Accommodation Service (IPAS) is studying the report and will take any remedial action that is necessary.”

The spokesperson added that  IPAS has recently inspected the facility and will do it again before Christmas.