A new campaign has been launched calling for the immediate closure of the Mount Trenchard direct provision centre near Foynes.
The group behind it, End Direct Provision Limerick, met with local councillors recently in a bid to get their backing for the campaign. They want an end to the direct provision system, which prevents asylum seekers from working and houses them in centres such as Mount Trenchard while they wait for their asylum applications to be processed. In some cases, this can take more than 10 years.
Jonathan Muhwezi, a spokesperson for the local group said: “We feel that local representatives have a responsibility to take action and let the Minister know that we do not condone the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers here in Limerick. We appreciate the opportunity to discuss these issues with local councillors in advance of a vote on the motion.
“In particular, Mount Trenchard direct provision centre in Foynes has been described as the worst of the 34 centres nationwide and local authorities have a role to play in highlighting this concern.”
Mr Muhwezi, who is still waiting for his asylum application to be processed, spent eight months in the centre which he described as a “horrible, horrible place.
“It is no place for anyone,” he said
“There are issues with Mount Trenchard but there is the bigger issue to end direct provision because it is inhumane,” he added.
A motion will be brought before Limerick City and County Council next week calling on members to support the ending of Direct Provision.
At last week’s meeting, residents of direct provision centres in Limerick informed councillors of their experience of living under this system, including time spent in Mount Trenchard. Key issues such as isolation, mental health and overcrowded conditions were discussed.
According to Mr Muhwezi, they received “positive feedback” from the councillors they spoke to.
A presentation was also given by Doras Luimni, the Limerick-based migrant rights organisation and member of End Direct Provision Limerick, outlining their concerns with Mount Trenchard and the wider system of Direct Provision.
According to Doras Luimni, the centre has a reputation among asylum seekers as a place that is used as a form of punishment, to accommodation those who display difficult behaviour and complex cases.
Gardai were called to the centre in August when residents staged a protest over their living conditions.
Karen McHugh of Doras Luimni said: “Mount Trenchard epitomises all the major failures of Direct Provision. The immediate closure of the centre would be a significant step in the right direction, but it does not do enough to resolve the multitude of issues caused by an inept and inefficient system”.
She added that the lengthy delays in processing asylum applications was leading to “an institutionalisation which has had significant mental health consequences for those trapped in the system”.
Mr Muhwezi said he had been in Ireland waiting for his system to be processed for five years, but that he knew people who had been waiting much longer.
“When you end up in the system for, in some cases, nine or ten years, that is no way to be treated,” he said.