Residents of Cahersiveen direct provision centre on hunger strike

Residents are demanding to be moved to other direct provision centres
Residents are demanding to be moved to other direct provision centres

29 July 2020: RTÉ: Around 30 residents of a controversial direct provision centre at Cahersiveen in Co Kerry, say they have begun refusing food, describing their living conditions as inhumane.

They are demanding to be moved to other direct provision centres elsewhere in the country.

The centre is located at the former Skellig Star boutique hotel and was opened in mid-March, when over 100 residents were moved there.

The first cases of coronavirus among residents were confirmed in early April, just over a fortnight after the centre opened.

Calls for its closure were made both by residents of the centre and by local people.

They claimed the centre was not fit for purpose, and social distancing was impossible there. Since then there have been around 20 cases of coronavirus among residents.

In May, then justice minister Charlie Flanagan apologised to the people of Cahersiveen for the manner in which the direct provision centre was opened there. However, he rejected calls for it to be closed.

A spokesperson for the residents said that 28 people began refusing food this morning in protest at conditions in the centre.

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, Roderic O’Gorman tweeted that responsibility for direct provision currently rests with Department of Justice, and that it will be transferred to his Department in the coming months. He said he has kept in regular contact throughout today with the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.Roderic O’Gorman TD@rodericogorman · 

1) Throughout today, I’ve kept in regular contact with @HMcEntee about Cahersiveen. I’ve been informed that IPAS officials visited Cahersiveen today, and engaged with residents about the concerns raised.Roderic O’Gorman TD@rodericogorman

2) Responsibility for Direct Provision currently rests with Dept of Justice, and will be transferred to my Department in the coming months. I know that Cahersiveen is just one part of much wider, more fundamental problems with the Direct Provision system in Ireland.63Twitter Ads info and privacySee Roderic O’Gorman TD’s other TweetsRoderic O’Gorman TD@rodericogorman · Replying to @rodericogorman

3) The Government is committed ending Direct Provision. With 7,700 people in the current system, that will take time. While we dismantle the current system, we will work to make improvements to the lives of the people living in it.Roderic O’Gorman TD@rodericogorman

4) It is clear that trust is broken between the State and people in Direct Provision. As we end Direct Provision, and work towards a system based on human rights, I pledge to ensure their voices are heard, and that trust is rebuilt.149Twitter Ads info and privacy42 people are talking about this

“This place is not okay. We should be moved, but the department is not listening”, Aswar Fuard said.

Mr Fuard came to Ireland from Sri Lanka in May 2019. He lives at the direct provision centre in Cahersiveen with his wife and one of his children.

“We started this hunger strike today; we will continue and we are not going to stop.

“One day, two days, three days, a week – we will continue”, Mr Fuard said.

“If there is another wave of coronavirus, this place is going to be a problem and we will be affected. We should be moved to a self-contained unit, with access to a social worker.

“We need to restart our lives. While we are here, we will not recover”.

Mr Fuard said the people refusing food represent ten different nationalities. He said all adults at the centre were refusing food as part of the protest.

The number of residents at the centre has reduced in recent weeks. It is understood there are around 40 people living there currently, including seven children.

Our colleagues at MASI – Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland have made the following statement:

Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland is concern with the ongoing hunger strike in one of the direct provision centres in Kerry. The Skellig Hotel in Cahersiveen residents have been on hunger strike for two days now. They have been facing traumatic experience since the start of the Covid19 crisis early in March. All their calls to be moved out of tbat place fell into the deaf ears of the government. Yesterday three officials were on site, all they did was to do an inspection of the centre together with management. They refused to speak with the group of residents who are on strike simple because they say their policy is not to speak to a group and they prefer to speak with individuals. 

We are worried about the health of the residents as this drags to day 2. We urge the relevant department to intervene and grant the residents the opportunity to be moved to a more suitable centre. We are in contact with the residents and they are in good spirit and are willing to go on until their demands are met.

Lucky Khambule 
MASI coordinator