The government’s Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), which has forked out millions of euro on accomodation for refugees in Newbridge since 2003, will meet with residents today (Tuesday) at an information clinic to discuss a number of issues with poor living standards at the centre.
Last week the Leinster Leader revealed that concerns of poor hygiene, lack of basic provisions, poor food supplies and staff behaviour at the centre “were neither surfaced nor addressed as quickly as they might have been” by the Reception and Integration Agency. Protestors received a response from the RIA on July 5 last that claimed eight areas of improvement have since been made to the centre and as a result of the issues raised at the Eyre Powell a redesign of the entire inspection system for refugee centres is now underway. Figures show that the RIA has paid E6.68 million of public monies to private contractor Cherryport Ltd to accomodate refugees at the Eyre Powell Hotel in Newbridge from 2003 to 2010.
The contract is on-going but it is up for renewal in October and it remains to be seen if it will be renewed as residents continue to protest since April against standards slipping in the hotel.
In a statement to the Leinster Leader the RIA said that the current accomodation system still “provides the best value for money”.
“There is no basis in holding that, because the private sector manages Direct Provision centres under contract to RIA it is any less capable of treating residents respectfully,” it reads. “RIA carefully monitors contracts to ensure that all residents are treated with dignity.”
A protest letter sent from the 44 Newbridge refugees to the RIA last April, however, made allegations of a lack of basic provisions, poor food supplies, poor hygiene and the behaviour of staff and management.
“As asylum seekers we deserve respect and dignity,” it reads
“Residents are forced to spend their meagre provision of €19.10 weekly to buy provisions and food, on most weeks when management fails to provide them,” the letter read. “There is a lack of toddler appropriate food (semi-solid food) whereby they are forced to go hungry as they are unable to eat the adult food provided -just a steady stream of chicken nuggets, pork sausages, white rice, chicken burger, red sauce, steamed vegetables and chips daily.
“Halal food for Muslims is not provided. Salads are never served, a few fruits are there at times but it’s first come first served basis. There is no varied packed lunch for school going children. All they have is Nutella spread, cheese or chicken luncheon sandwiches.”
Their letter also referred to dilapidated furniture in common areas insects, cockroaches, mice infestation, poor hygiene in cleaning of crockery and premises and the poor upkeep of the Eyre Powell.
In a statement made to the Leinster Leader, RIA has refuted any allegations that residents may be afraid to complain during inspections.
In a statement from the RIA to the Leinster Leader, it said that there was “no basis for the for the contention that nearly all residents are afraid to complain to the RIA as it is linked to the Department of Justice”.
A notice was placed in the centre on July 5 to the effect that: “The interests of asylum seekers are protected through regular ‘clinics’ in centres where residents can speak directly to RIA headquarters staff without local centre management being present,” it added.