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Government defends lack of information on people who died in direct provision

Over the past 10 years, 44 people have died in direct provision.

Protesters outside Leinster House  calling for an end to the direct provision system.
Protesters outside Leinster House calling for an end to the direct provision system.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE DEPARTMENT OF Justice has defended procedures which mean it does not know the cause of death of about one in three asylum seekers who have died while in the direct provision system.

The Irish Catholic yesterday published details obtained through the Freedom of Information Act relating to the causes of death of 44 people in direct provision over the last decade.

The names and nationalities were not included in the released information, merely the causes of death.

The figures came from the Reception and Integration Agency, which falls under the Department of Justice, and recorded the causes of death of 15 of those listed as unknown.

The article further pointed out the causes of death that were listed were not definitive but were recorded as “suspected cause of death”.

“Of those for whom there is a suspected cause of death, two people are thought to have died as a result of suicide, one person as a result of a stabbing incident and another drowned in the last ten years,” the article stated.

The issue of the department being unaware of the causes of death of residents within the direct provision system is one which has been raised before.

Attempts have been made to push for greater transparency in the area but the department has consistently defended the failure to collect information and put it into the public domain.

Commenting on the latest controversy, the Department of Justice noted that the majority of the deaths in direct provision occur when the deceased people are outside of the accommodation centres. In practice, this frequently means the person died in a hospital.

The department argued that if the Reception and Integration Agency was to seek to record such information it may be in breach of privacy laws.

RIA does not and will not seek information on protection applicants outside its remit and views the seeking out of such information as a breach of the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003. The RIA is not entitled to hold or have access to the death certificate of any individual.

The department also added that although the deaths of the individuals was not held by the government, this did not mean that they were not recorded.

“It is simply not true that the cause of death in such cases is unknown to the State,” the department said in a statement.

“Deaths of people resident in State-provided accommodation is recorded in the normal way and a record of the death is held by the registrar general of births, deaths and marriages.”

Direct provision centres house asylum applicants and their families while applications are being processed but the conditions in which the people are held and the length of time they are required to stay there has been frequently criticised.

Read: Government accused of ‘wilfully’ releasing inaccurate homelessness figures >

Read: The food is ‘horrible’ and the men are ‘creepy’ – Children in direct provision speak out >

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Rónán Duffy

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