Sinn Féin Senator, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has accused the Minister for Justice of sticking his head in the sand and hiding behind officialdom in relation to the plight of asylum seekers in direct provision.
The Senator made his remarks after a Seanad debate on the issue last night. During the debate Senators from across the political spectrum unanimously called for reform of the privatised accommodation system for housing asylum seekers.
Senators were extremely concerned by the potential infringement of human and children’s rights, the degrading and demeaning nature of the system, the length of time people are kept waiting for a determination, the cost of the system and the profits being made by the companies running them as well as raising questions about independent oversight and monitoring.
They noted serious concerns raised by independent observers such as the outgoing Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, the Government Special Rapporteur on Children, Geoffrey Shannon, non-Governmental organisations such as the Irish Refugee council and the personal testimony of Senators who have visited centres and are very concerned with the system. Current legal challenges to the system were also raised and the implications of these for the State.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh said;
“Minister Shatter’s reply to the Senators was tantamount to a denial that there is any basis for the serious concerns from all sides. I cannot accept that. It is very unusual to have unanimous support for a motion in the Seanad, which this one did and the extremely serious concerns raised on all sides refute most of what was in the Minister’s pre-prepared reply.
“Sinn Féin is now calling for a task force to be set up, comprising government officials, independent observers, politicians from all parties and representatives on behalf of service users to examine new models for accommodating and receiving asylum seekers in Ireland based on principles of international best practice.
“If our citizens were being treated in a similar fashion abroad the government would be screaming blue murder in diplomatic circles and rightly so.”