*Photograph: John Mangan
No health and safety issues were recorded in the past week during two Departmental inspections of The Central Hostel in Miltown Malbay which houses asylum seekers.
Up to December, 35 men lived in the Miltown Malbay hostel before 15 were transferred to Clare Lodge in Ennis and others to a Galway travel lodge.
In recent weeks, the Miltown Malbay Welcome Group wrote to Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan (FG) calling for the immediate closure of the Direct Provision Centre and outlined health and safety issues at the Hostel while the matter was also highlighted in Dáil Éireann.
A spokesperson for the group, Áine Rynne stated, “Our community embraced these men, but I feel like our work has been undermined by what happened in the centre. It’s a dreadful situation. The food they are providing for these men is absolutely appalling. That’s a basic human right to have your proper three meals”.
Deputy Cathal Crowe (FF) also called for an immediate closure. “Pictures and videos have been recorded of leaking ceilings, water running down the bedroom walls when the showers are in use, rodent issues and substandard food that is not providing the nourishment these people need to survive,” he said.
Owner of The Central Hostel, Pat Kelly said that the allegations were false and did not wish to speak on the matter when contacted by members of the media.
On Wednesday afternoon, Minister for Justice wrote to Crowe, Michael McNamara (IND), Joe Carey (FG) and Violet-Anne Wynne (SF) and informed them that measures had been taken in recent days in light of concerns expressed “to establish first-hand the factual position and to satisfy ourselves as to the safety of the residents concerned”.
Last Thursday, officials from the International Protection Service (IPAS) held a clinic via video call with residents of The Central Hostel. 12 of the 19 residents attended the clinic which was held off-site in the Miltown Malbay Community Centre and was facilitated by a volunteer from the Limerick and Clare Educational Training Board (LCETB). Each resident attended their own clinic appointment in a separate room away from the facilitator and the manager of the Community Centre to ensure privacy and confidentiality.
Flanagan said, “A small number of the residents who participated in the clinics stated that the food was not to their liking. The majority of residents who attended the clinic stated they were happy with the food and with the accommodation in general”.
Subsequent to the clinics, an unannounced visit was made to The Central Hostel on June 5th by a senior official from the Department of Justice. “During this visit, a number of issues raised in recent correspondence to my Office were investigated. I can confirm that no health and safety issues were identified during this visit, during which all rooms were viewed,” Minister Flanagan outlined.
“Concerns had previously been raised with my Office around rodent activity on the premises and water leaking. I am advised that there was no evidence of any rodent activity or water leaking on the day my official visited. When questioned by my official on these matters, the owner confirmed that a resident had reported mice in his room in February. The owner engaged a pest control company who could not find any evidence of rodents. They subsequently monitored the room for three weeks and could not find any evidence of rodents. Regarding the water, I am advised that the owner confirmed that an incident occurred some months ago where water was leaking from a bath/shower on the second floor into a bedroom on the first floor. It was reported to him by the residents in the room and he sought to engage a plumber,” the letter continued.
One resident informed Mr Kelly that he was a plumber and wished to fix the leak. The Minister stated that the matter was addressed within an hour and no reoccurrence of the leaking has been reported since.
No concerns were identified regarding the quality and variety of food available during the visit. “Food is prepared onsite by a professional chef and all meat is Halal certified. Residents also have use of the kitchen for special occasions and regularly cook meals of their choice from food supplied by management,” Minister Flanagan added. Arrangements were also made during Ramadan recently for residents to use the kitchen at night.
On February 13th this year, an unannounced visit was also conducted by IPAS officials following concerns from a local support group. No major issues were recorded during the inspection of all bedroom, recreation rooms, kitchen and dining facilities while they also had lunch with the residents. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) also carried out a visit to the premises in February as part of a programme of visits to a variety of centres over a two week period, they did not flag any concerns with the Department following this visit.
He concluded, “Our intention is to accommodate all international protection applicants currently living in emergency accommodation in dedicated accommodation centres as soon as places become available”. Officials within the Department are to follow up with management and residents on any of the issues raised during the clinics.