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Access for candidates to Direct Provision Centres to be raised with Minister – Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh

14 May, 2014

Sinn Féin’s Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has said a ban preventing local election candidates from canvassing in Direct Provision Centres is denying residents an opportunity to make an informed decision on voting day.

Speaking during the Order of Business Senator Ó Clochartaigh said:

“This is just not acceptable. If you are legally entitled to vote in elections then you have both a duty and a right to make an informed decision about who you are going to vote for.

“When it comes to the local elections, asylum seekers have the same voting rights as Irish citizens and other long term residents.

“Therefore they should be entitled to access the same information and to meet the candidates if they so wish with a view to making an informed decision on voting day.

“The refusal by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) to allow candidates from all parties’ access to voters in Direct Provision Centres is a blatant indictment of how the state views asylum seekers.

“People in Direct Provision have not committed a crime, they are not in detention and they pose no threat to society. Yet the decision by the RIA to ban political canvassing in Direct Provision Centres replicates the ban on canvassing in prisons across the country.

“The state has an obligation under domestic and international law to vindicate the rights of asylum seekers, for whom the local poll may well be their first opportunity to vote in fair and free elections.

“In the final analysis if you are entitled to vote then you should also have a corresponding entitlement that permits access to candidates and the relevant information?

“Direct Provision Centres are not prisons and asylum seekers have committed no crime. When it comes to the local elections they have a legal right to be treated like any other voter.”

“I fully endorse the Immigrant Council of Ireland’s concerns on this matter which I hope will be resolved before polling day.

“I am also encouraged by Senator Maurice Cummins’ assurance that he will raise the issue with the Minister for Justice as a matter of urgency.”

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