‘Animals better off’ than asylum seekers, City Council is told

Cllr Mike Crowe: "Farmers keep heifers in better facilities than asylum seekers are kept in."  

Farm animals are living in better conditions than asylum seekers in Direct Provision in the city, it has been claimed.

Galway City Council has unanimously backed a motion calling for government to disband the “inhumane” Direct Provision centres.

“There are farmers in parts of this country who keep heifers in better facilities than these people are living in,” said Fianna Fáil’s Mike Crowe, who proposed the motion.

The Direct Provision system in Ireland is the scandal of our generation, he said.

“This will be our mini-Magdalen Laundries’ scandal when we look back in 10 or 20 years’ time at how these people are treated,”

Councillor Crowe said there are two Direct Provision centres in Galway – Eglinton Hotel in Salthill and the Great Western off Eyre Square – where asylum seekers are living in “appalling conditions” as they await their asylum applications to be processed.

The Direct Provision system was supposed to be a temporary accommodation but, he said, many are waiting eight or 10 years, during which time they are not allowed to work, and must survive on less than €20 per week. They can’t fend for themselves, because they’re not allowed, and they’re relying on St Vincent de Paul to survive. It is one room per family, and they are cramped.

“It is inhumane . . . it is no life for humans”.

Sinn Féin Councillor Cathal Ó Conchúir agreed that Galway’s Direct Provision establishments were bad but he noted Limerick was worse.

“It’s something like a World War II concentration camp . . . trying to live and rear children in those sort of conditions is unbelievable,” he said of teh Limerick facility.

Cllr Ó Conchúir, a teacher, pointed out that the children of asylum seekers living in Direct Provision are discriminated against – they get free education at primary and secondary level but are charged €20,000 (non-EU fees) if they wish to go to third level.

He said that a wealthy Galway benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous, has paid for many asylum seekers to go to university but Councillor Ó Conchúir wants this barrier to education removed.

Independent Donal Lyons agreed that the conditions were inhumane but he pointed out that the asylum seekers have a “great regard” for the front-line staff in the Eglington and Great Western.

Sinn Féin’s Mairéad Farrell said that not only are the children living in appalling conditions in these facilities but they are embarrassed about it and are afraid to talk about it when they go to school.

Labour’s Billy Cameron said Direct Provision is “damaging human progress” and generations to come will look back at the treatment of these people as the “Magdalene of our generation”. “It must be a breach of human rights,” he said.

Independent Noel Larkin said he was worried what would happen if Direct Provision did end.

“There are 4,600 households and the hoisting waiting list. If we call on the Government to end this, where will they go – are we asking for them (government) to make a decision to deport them? If we deport them what are they going back to? There are a lot tougher conditions in their own country than what they have living in a hotel in Salthill,” said Councillor Larkin.

Independent Mike Cubbard said that using the word “hotel” makes it sound like they are living in the lap of luxury, but the reality is the complete opposite. Ireland will be sued by asylum seekers in years to come, “and rightly so”, he said.

Concluding the debate, Cllr Crowe pointed out the hypocrisy of lobbying the White House for changes to emigration for the undocumented Irish in America while at the same time ignoring the plight of asylum seekers living in squalor among us in Salthill and Eyre Square.

“I don’t care if you’re black, white or pink or what plane you got off, nobody should be living in those conditions,” he added.

The motion was passed unanimously, and it was agreed to circulate it to other local authorities around the country so that they too would pass similar motions.