Call to grant residency to Ballyhaunis asylum seekers

More than two hundred men, women, and children live under direct provision at the Old Convent in Ballyhaunis.

More than two hundred men, women, and children live under direct provision at the Old Convent in Ballyhaunis.

Many of the 216 people, a third of whom are children, living in an asylum seeker accommodation centre in Ballyhaunis are at “breaking point”.

That is according to Natalya Pestova, the coordinator of the support group Mayo Intercultural Action, who this week hit out at the enforced poverty and cramped, unsuitable, conditions in which asylum seekers are living in Ballyhaunis.

Ms Pestova’s comments on the plight of the county’s asylum seeking population appeared to be backed-up yesterday (Thursday ) by a damning Oireachtas committee report on the asylum seeking process.

In Ireland, asylum seekers live under a system called direct provision while their asylum application is decided. They are segretated from the community and live in hostel style accommodation on an allowance of €19.10 for an adult and €8.60 for a child.

The Oireacthas committee report has called for the scrapping of the direct provision system - which is “unfit for purpose”.

It also says the restriction on asylum seekers to work needs to be lifted immediately.

The report describes the €19.10 allowance, which has not changed in 15 years, as ‘derisory’.

Ms Pestova said the average wait for an asylum seeker in direct provision in Mayo is four years, but some are waiting up to 10 years.

“[They] are forced to live indefinitely in abject poverty in unsuitable, cramped, living conditions, with no right to work or education,” said Ms Pestova. “This has taken its toll on men, women, and children and many are at breaking point.”

Last week, Mayo County Council became the first local authority in Ireland to support an Irish Refugee Council campaign called ‘Clear the Asylum Backlog’.

The campaign is calling on Government to grant residency - on a once-off basis - to all of the asylum seekers who have been languishing under direct provision for years.

Cllr Therese Ruane (SF ), who tabled the motion to support the Clear the Asylum Backlog campaign, said direct provision is “cruel and inhumane”.

“These centres will be the next Ryan Report,” she said. “We should have learned from our institutions in the past.”

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