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Immigrants should not be held in prisons - Mary Lou McDonald

24 July, 2006

Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald MEP has today visited Cloverhill Prison in West Dublin. Upon completion of the visit, Ms McDonald said that 'such facilities are not where those with immigration issues should be'

Ms McDonald was accompanied by party colleague Bairbre de Brún MEP on a visit to view conditions inside the jail for immigrants held at Cloverhill.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"Today's visit to Cloverhill was about gathering as much information as possible on the procedures and treatment of immigrants held in Irish jails. We spoke with staff, the prison Governor and detainees themselves. We were particularly keen to see the conditions - the cells, health and education provision and facilities available for family reunions.

"Having spent a number of hours inside Cloverhill prison this morning it is fair to say that the conditions in which immigrants are held are adequate. However, prison is not an appropriate place for those who await the processing of their immigration applications.

"Many immigrants come to Ireland to escape war, famine or extreme poverty only to find themselves locked up at night between 7.30pm and 8.00 am in small cells for anything up to 56 days and receive closed visits. It is important to stress that these migrants have committed no crimes yet are being treated like prisoners inside such facilities.

"I will be anxious to raise with the Minister for Justice the prison policy that permits those detained solely on immigration issues to be held three to a cell and to be denied regular open visits. This is an issue of government policy.

"There are also issues arising from the visit which I intend to raise with the Garda National Immigration Bureau, who remain a first point of contact for many immigrants coming into Ireland." ENDS

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