‘We want our freedom’: Asylum seekers’ protest at arrest

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

Asylum seeker protest on Glentworth StreetPicture: Adrian Butler
THE ARMED Support Unit and more than a dozen gardai were called to a public order disturbance at Hanratty’s asylum seekers’ centre on Glentworth Street this Wednesday lunchtime.

THE ARMED Support Unit and more than a dozen gardai were called to a public order disturbance at Hanratty’s asylum seekers’ centre on Glentworth Street this Wednesday lunchtime.

Dozens of asylum seekers chanted “freedom” and shouted “racist” repeatedly at gardai as they attempted to arrest a man after he had a verbal argument with a staff member in the centre.

He was arrested and brought to Henry Street garda station, after further gardai were called to the scene to help evacuate the protest, quell tensions and allow the garda car leave the laneway.

Those at the centre said the dispute arose around ongoing issues concerning their freedoms at the centre and within the direct provision system in Ireland in general, including their living conditions, a curfew they have to obey, the quality of their food and other issues regarding personal choice, which they feel they have no control over

Gardai said the man arrested was likely to be issued with an adult caution warning if he did not have any previous convictions, but did not expect any charges to be made.

Karen McHugh, chief executive of Doras Luimni, the local support group for all migrants living locally, said they will be urging any residents to address their complaints within the proper procedure through the Reception and Integration Agency, under the Department of Justice.

Ms McHugh said there are “ongoing issues that need to be directed through the correct channels” and said they will be meeting with the person in question this week to discuss their issues.

“There are a lot of frustrations for people within the system. There is a much, much bigger picture there. You could have three to four people put in to one room to live together - total strangers from different parts of the world, with different languages, customs and beliefs, and some of these people spend an awful long time in the system,” she told the Limerick Leader.

Under the direct provision system, asylum seekers can be held in a centre for up to seven years before their case is decided, and they are not allowed to work or study during that time.

While their meals and accommodation is provided for by the State, they receive a weekly income of €19.10.

The garda ethnic liaison officer assigned to this centre in Limerick has also been contacted to be made aware of and potentially resolve issues that may arise.

Staff at the centre did not wish to comment when contacted. The owner of the centre was unavailable to comment.