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'Mould, fire hazards and damp' identified at Direct Provision centres as new Minister aims for independent inspections

No inspections of centres have taken place since late March due to Covid-19.

INSPECTIONS AT DIRECT Provision centres this year discovered mould, fire hazards and damp as well as faulty fire alarms and poor sanitary provision. 

Numerous issues were identified in recent inspection reports, carried out between January and March by the International Protection Accomodation Service (IPAS) and private contractor QTS. 

One inspection at a centre in Co Waterford noted “specs of mould” in one bedroom as well as broken shelves, windows and wardrobes in several rooms. 

An inspection three weeks later at a centre in Co Laois in February identified metal guttering “hanging loose” above its entrance as well as showers in need of repair, taps leaking, covered smoke alarms, mildew and a fire alarm in need of repair.

At another centre in Co Cork in February it was noted that “most residents” ate in their rooms and that no soap or towels were available in the showers. 

Another inspection in March at a centre in Limerick identified rooms requiring deep cleaning. There was also dampness and damaged walls due to leaks. 

Fire safety, meanwhile, was identified as the main issue at Knockalisheen Direct Provision centre in Co Limerick in March this year after hotplates and cooking equipment were found in 15 rooms with smoke detectors covered in a further seven rooms. 

No inspections of centres have taken place since late March due to Covid-19. The Department of Justice & Equality has yet to confirm when inspections will recommence.

Only eight inspection reports for this year have been published so far by the Department despite there being over 80 contracted locations where asylum seekers live. Over 100 inspection reports from 2019 were recently published. 

Meanwhile, there have been no official inspections at over 40 Emergency Accommodation locations since the Department first contracted hotels and B&Bs in September 2018. 

TheJournal.ie has highlighted a number of issues at these locations including people being told not to bring food to their rooms and strict curfews being implemented by centre management. 

NGOs, meanwhile, have called for independent inspections of Direct Provision centres for several years. Migrants rights group Nasc said that an independent inspectorate should be in place in “any setting where vulnerable people are being accommodated.”

Prior to 2007, IPAS – formerly known as RIA – carried out arranged inspections of Direct Provision centres.

QTS Ltd has also carried out inspections once per year since 2007. The company has been paid €388,000 by the Department in that time. 

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Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Immigration Roderic O’Gorman – who will now have responsibility for Direct Provision – said he is determined to implement independent inspections and remove responsibility from the Department. “It has to come away from the Department,” he said. 

The Minister said that officials were currently in discussions with the Health Information & Quality Authority (HIQA), which is due to take over inspections of centres once new standards for Direct Provision come into effect in January 2021. HIQA currently carries inspections at Ireland’s nursing homes. 

“My sense is that Justice are very much willing to budge on this,” the Minister said, in relation to reforming Ireland’s system of accommodating asylum seekers. 

O’Gorman stressed that ending Direct Provision is a “whole of Government approach” and that it is intrinsically linked with Ireland’s housing crisis.

He said he will be engaging with Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien and The Land Development Agency in future as part of Government plans to “open up public land” under its Programme For Government. 

“We have a very mixed and regularly very poor quality of accommodation…and a variable degree of wraparound services and supports provided for people depending on where in the country they are located,” said O’Gorman. 

“We need to move away from that to a system that is not-for-profit…and where people who are having their applications processed can live in dignity and aren’t isolated.”

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