Asylum Centres ‘Overcrowded’

Independent (Dublin), March 25 2010

Women and children seeking asylum are living in overcrowded and outdated centres where they fear for their safety and face intimidation and racism, it was claimed.

An African women’s group maintained residents are sexually harassed and are in fear of private management firms who control the country’s 52 reception centres.

Salome Mbugua, of AkiDwA, which means sisterhood in swahili, said there was a feeling a helplessness and hopelessness among mothers, and called on Government to take more responsibility over the running of the units.

“The safety and security of women and their children is paramount,” Ms Mbugua said.

AkiDwA said almost 3,000 women and young girls live in reception centres while their application for asylum is being processed–some for up to six years.

The agency’s new report on conditions highlighted a lack of appropriate staffing, training and Garda vetting.

The study–Am Only Saying It Now–also revealed long stays in centres had a huge impact on the physical and mental health of women and children.

The Justice Department’s Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) is responsible for co-ordinating the provision of services to both asylum seekers and refugees, with the running contracted to private management firms.

Ms Mbugua recommended Government has an independent audit of its policy on direct care provision, require all centre staff undergo mandatory training and Garda vetting, and create a transparent, independent and confidential complaints mechanism.

Catherine Joyce, of children’s charity Barnardos, said she was concerned about the impact the direct provision system is having on children.

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