The Direct Provision Centre at the former Montague Hotel has been strongly criticised by Cllr Aidan Mullins, who described it as being “inhumane and in contravention of the residents’ human rights”.
“A bed, access to meals and a small weekly allowance (€19.10 for an adult and €9.60 for a child) is all the support that the State provides to asylum seekers. These rates have not been changed in over ten years,” he said.
There are 160 asylum seekers in the centre from 34 different nationalities including around 40 children. While visitors are not permitted in the living areas, Cllr Mullins managed to gain access to some of the living quarters with a resident of the centre and was shocked by conditions.
“What I saw shocked me, as children are forced to live in tiny crowded rooms with parents and there is a complete lack of privacy, which must have a profound impact on the mental health of all concerned,” he said. “Many are lone parent family units. I spoke to one young mother who has shared a tiny room with her two children for seven years with no end in sight and her stress was obvious.”
He said there is virtually nothing at the centre to occupy children, with children gathered in an empty study room with no facilities, while adults “wander listlessly about the place”.
“The Irish State now belatedly acknowledges the historic abuse in Ireland by the church and also state bodies and agencies. Yet we now turn a blind eye once more to discrimination and breaches of human rights to vulnerable asylum seekers and it is happening here in Laois on our own doorstep. We should be ashamed of ourselves as a nation for allowing this to happen,” he declared.