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Tuesday 21 March 2023 Dublin: 11°C
# Salthill
Government body quashes claims that Direct Provision residents were served meals in plastic bag
“Food is not served to residents in plastic bags,” a spokesperson for the International Protection Accommodation Service said.

Updated 23 November 

THE GOVERNMENT BODY that oversees the Direct Provision system has categorically quashed claims that residents at a DP centre in Co Galway were served meals in plastic bags.

Video footage circulating on social media at the start of November showed food being put into a plastic bag at a food counter at the accommodation centre in Salthill.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) said that it had received 13 complaints over the incident. “It should be noted that all of these complaints related to that video that was circulating on social media,” a spokesperson told The Journal. “The complaints were forwarded to the HSE for follow up.”

A spokesperson for the International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS), the government body that oversees the system, told The Journal when we first reported on the claims on 4 November that the organisation was “aware of the video that is circulating on social media”.

The Abolish Direct Provision Campaign (ADPC), a campaign group which shared the video, had said several residents claimed to have been served food “regularly” in plastic bags.

At the time that the video emerged, IPAS said it was of the view that “food is not regularly served in plastic bags in any accommodation centre”, but added: “On occasion, residents may request that food items be placed in take-away containers.”

Late last week, The Connacht Tribune published an article which reported that it had viewed CCTV footage which showed that a resident had actively requested their food be placed directly in the plastic bag.

The Journal sought an updated comment from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth – under whose remit IPAS falls – on their investigation into the incident and they released an updated statement to confirm that “food is not served to residents in plastic bags”. They had previously told The Journal that “food is not regularly served in plastic bags”. 

The spokesperson confirmed: “In this instance, a resident requested food to be served to them in a plastic bag, despite having been offered take-away containers.”

On foot of the video circulating online, staff from the International Protection Procurement Service (IPPS), which manages the contract with the Direct Provision accommodation centre in Salthill had visited the hotel “to investigate the matter”. In a statement, as published by The Journal on 4 November, they said they had reviewed CCTV in the area “and did not find evidence that food is being served in plastic bags”.

“QTS, which undertakes inspections on behalf of IPPS, also visited the centre [yesterday] to ensure that it is complying with the terms of its contract with regard to food provision to residents,” they added.

The spokesperson for IPAS stated that the organisation “is always available to deal with any complaints from residents and residents are encouraged to engage with IPAS if they are unhappy with any aspect of their accommodation”.

“Where a complaint is significant in nature or a resident is not comfortable raising a complaint with a centre manager, they may make the complaint directly, or through a representative authorised to act on their behalf, to the IPAS Customer Service Team.”

The spokesperson stated in early November that IPAS would “be conducting an onsite residents’ clinic in coming days and residents are encouraged to attend the clinic where they can raise any issue they may have with regard to the services being provided at the centre, directly with a representative of the IPAS Customer Services Team”.

About 120 people currently live at the centre.

Fears over status

The spokesperson for the Abolish Direct Provision Campaign had claimed when the video first emerged that a number of residents at the centre said that when they complained about the food situation they were told that if they made an official complaint it could affect their asylum application.

When asked about this claim, the IPAS spokesperson said “IPAS has no role in determining a resident’s claim for international protection”.

“Decisions on claims for international protection are matters for the Department of Justice. Residents can freely make complaints without any implications for their claims for international protection,” they added.

IPAS carried out an inspection at the Salthill centre on 24 September. The subsequent report notes that HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) food safety measures have been put in place at the facility.

In February of this year, Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman announced plans to end the Direct Provision system by 2024.

Under the plans, asylum seekers will spend no more than four months in six State-owned, not-for-profit centres before moving into their own accommodation.

Note: This article was originally published on 4 November. It has been updated today after new information emerged.