forty-four refugees at the Eyre Powell Asylum Centre in Newbridge finally received a response from the Reception and Integration Agency to a hard-hitting protest letter delivered last April protesting about their living conditions.
The letter highlighted several complaints, including their claims of poor hygiene, a lack of basic provisions, poor food supplies, staff behavour and the management system at the premises.
The reply, which was received on Monday last, July 9, claimed eight areas of improvement have been made in the hotel including a “deep clean” in the kitchen and dining areas, a certification that the centre is “clear of live pest activity” and is currently cockroach free.
There are also new staff rosters in place to ensure “sufficent staff resources are in place”.
However the protesters claim that standards are slipping once more in the hotel building which houses up to 100 asylum seekers including children. And they have vowed to continue the protest unless improvements in the overall system are made.
Meanwhile the RIA response, which is signed by Noel Dowling, Principal, Reception and Integration Agency, also stated that a comments box has been placed in the centre to allow residents “to give feedback to management team”. Lastly, the letter makes reference to a “good variety of food” which is available, to address “in particular the concerns expressed about breakfast and school lunches”.
It also outlines that as well as regular inspections by the RIA, the centre has been subject to two inspections by an independent company, QTS.
Although the 44 refugees have welcome the response from the RIA, which they claim “justifies their protest” they once more question the failure of the RIA to “provide adequate provision for vulnerable people in their care” and the viability of any independent inspections made.
The following is taken from a statement made by the protesters to the Leinster Leader in the wake of the RIA’s response.
“The fact that the outcomes achieved were required to be addressed in the first place show a complete system failure by the RIA and of the State to provide adequate provision for vulnerable people in their care.
“We have previously requested that Minister Shatter appoint a senior official to investigate as to why the management of the Centre always seemed to be aware of up and coming visits from the RIA. In addition we asked the Minister to appoint a visiting committee to ensure that the recent improvements are maintained.
“We have yet to hear from the Minister. We are already beginning to see signs of slippage in standards and while we are currently maintaining the suspension of the protest, wish to advise that this is a suspension not a cancellation.”
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 next.
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.
The picture above was taken before the recent improvements were made.