Ten years a slave to asylum system in Limerick

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

M'Broh Jacques Koffi, a tailor from the Ivory Coast, at the protest in Limerick: 'We can't live like this. This is mental torture. How much longer do we have to wait?'
UP to 100 asylum seekers in Hanratty’s hostel in Limerick staged another protest this Monday, calling on the Government to end the backlog in processing their applications.

UP to 100 asylum seekers in Hanratty’s hostel in Limerick staged another protest this Monday, calling on the Government to end the backlog in processing their applications.

Some of the residents in the Glentworth Street centre have been waiting for up to 10 years for the department to approve their application for residency, and are pleading for the direct provision system to be brought to an end.

During that time they are not allowed to work or study, and receive just €19.10 a week from the Department of Justice for their living costs.

“We want freedom to integrate, to get a job, to get education, to be able to travel. We don’t know our society and we don’t know our environment,” said Kingsley, who is from Nigeria, and like others in the centre does not wish to reveal his full name due to the circumstances in which he fled his native country.

Kingsley, who has been in Ireland for just over a year, said the wait is akin to “mental and psychological torture” and said people living there feel suicidal.

“We can’t live this like. How much longer is it going to take,” he asked.

According to the most recent available figures from the department, Hanratty’s has a capacity for 112 residents, with 101 residents there as of September last, a small percentage of whom are female.

However, some of the women in the centre feel that this is not a safe environment for them, due to the predominantly male and highly-charged environment such as the circumstances the system inherently creates. The men are also not allowed to bring any girlfriends into the centre.

“It’s not really safe, and it’s not appropriate,” said Selina, 36, a hairdresser, from Cameroon. “I can’t work, and it’s killing my talents and skills. I can’t be creative any more.”

Another resident Felix said: “The manager doesn’t see us as human beings. People in prisons have a better life. There is no dignity here. There are about 10 women here now, but I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. They should be in a separate centre.”

M’broh Jacques Koffi, a 35 year-old tailor from the Ivory Coast, said he has been waiting for his application to be processed for ten years.

“It is very frustrating. I have two kids [in the Ivory Coast], and it’s very difficult to feed them from here. I try to send home maybe €50 a month if I can out of the money I receive.”

Residents carried placards saying ‘No hope’ and ‘When will I begin to live?’

In a response to queries from the Limerick Leader, the departure said the Reception and Integration agency, under its auspices, is aware of the protest in Limerick and is continuing to monitor developments in the city. No answer was given as to suitability of a mixed-gender asylum centre, and Hanratty’s is the only mixed centre in Limerick.

Doras Luimni, the Limerick agency which supports all migrants in the Mid-West, has long been campaigning to bring an end to the current system of direct provision.

As of October 14 of last year, there were 4,309 people in the direct provision system, of which a third were children. The system costs some €12,000 per resident, none of which is paid to asylum seekers themselves.

Numbers of new claims for asylum decreased significantly from the high of 11,634 in 2002 to 946 new claims in 2013.

“Delays, forced idleness, poverty, cramped and unsuitable conditions, transfers couple with uncertainty and the threat of deportation, has taken its toll on men, women and children, and many of them are at breaking point,” said a spokesperson for Doras Luimni.