A call has been made for the immediate set up of an independent complaints inspection board for refugees living in asylum centres after 44 refugees based at the Eyre Powell in Newbridge raised concerns of racism, harassment, health and safety issues, and poor nutrition at the centre with the Reception and Integration Agency, the Department of Justice and Equality and the Irish Refugee Council last week, writes Paula Campbell.
“It is not terribly surprising,” said Sharon Waters Press Officer with the Irish Refugee Council in response to the stark letter which was delivered on April 12 last. “There is no independent robust complaints inspection mechanism to deal with refugee complaints and therefore no sense of accountability and transparency. We need to bring them in under the Ombudsman. Nearly all residents are afraid of management and afraid to complain to the RIA as it is linked to the Department of Justice. These management companies [that run the centres] are paid an awful lot - some of them have made millions - as a tax payer it is not value for money. It is run on a profit basis. It is holding these people up saying there is money to be made from them. There is no semblance of family life in the centres, no privacy, no chance to be a family or to a child. The RIA insist that is value for money but it just using people. It is fantastic that these refugees have expressed their concern and I am now anxious to meet with them.”
The issues raised by the refugees at the Eyre Powell include allegations of a lack of basic provisions, poor food supplies, poor hygiene, harassment and intimidation by staff and a ‘hoodwink’ management system.
“As asylum seekers we deserve respect and dignity,” it reads.
The Eyre Powell, which is run under private contract by Cherryport Ltd, was first contracted by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) in April 2003 and the current contract is due to expire in October, 30 2012. It is one of 45 privately-owned, full-board centres. There are seven state-owned centres in operation in Ireland. The Eyre Powell Hotel houses up to 100 asylum seekers, and is located on Newbridge’s Main Street.
Management at the hotel didn’t comment on the matter and referred the Leinster Leader to the RIA.