NO health and safety issues were identified during an unannounced visit by a senior official from the Department of Justice and Equality to the Direct Provision centre in Miltown Malbay last week, it has been revealed.
“I am advised that there was no evidence of any rodent activity or water leaking on the day my official visited,” Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan stated in briefing note seen by The Clare Champion.
Mr Flanagan commissioned the report following concerns raised in correspondence and Parliamentary Questions relating to the emergency accommodation premises for international protection applicants at the Central Hostel in Miltown Malbay.
Hostel owner Pat Kelly did not wish to make any comment but said to contact the Department of Justice on the issue.
Last Thursday (June 4), officials from the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) held a clinic via video call with residents of the centre, which was attended by 12 of the 19 residents. The clinic was held off‐site in the local community centre and was facilitated by a volunteer from the Limerick and Clare Educational Training Board.
Each resident attended in a separate room away from the facilitator and the manager of the community centre to ensure privacy and confidentiality.
“A small number of the residents who participated in the clinics stated that the food was not to their liking. The majority of residents who attended the clinic stated they were happy with the food and with the accommodation in general,” Minister Flanagan said.
Following the clinics, an unannounced visit was made to the accommodation on Friday by a senior official from the Department of Justice.
“During this visit, a number of issues raised in recent correspondence to my office were investigated. I can confirm that no health and safety issues were identified during this visit, during which all rooms were viewed. Concerns had previously been raised with my office around rodent activity on the premises and water leaking. I am advised that there was no evidence of any rodent activity or water leaking on the day my official visited.
“When questioned by my official on these matters, the owner confirmed that a resident had reported mice in his room in February. The owner engaged a pest control company who could not find any evidence of rodents. They subsequently monitored the room for three weeks and could not find any evidence of rodents,” according to the minister.
He continued, “Regarding the water, I am advised that the owner confirmed that an incident occurred some months ago where water was leaking from a bath/shower on the second floor into a bedroom on the first floor. It was reported to him by the residents in the room and he sought to engage a plumber. One of the residents said he was a plumber and asked if he could fix it. It was addressed within a few hours and no reoccurrence of the leaking has been reported since.”
Minister Flanagan said the official identified no concerns about the quality or variety of food available during the visit.
“Food is prepared onsite by a professional chef and all meat is Halal certified. Residents also have use of the kitchen for special occasions and regularly cook meals of their choice from food supplied by management. Arrangements were also made during Ramadan recently for residents to use the kitchen at night.
The Minister confirmed that IPAS officials previously visited the premises unannounced on February 13 last, on foot of concerns raised by a local support group. During this visit, they inspected all bedrooms and recreation rooms and the kitchen and dining facilities, and they had lunch with the residents.
“I am advised that my officials did not find any major issues to report and the residents they spoke to did not raise any issues about the standard of the centre,” Mr Flanagan.
He noted the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) also carried out a visit to the premises in February as part of a programme of visits to a variety of centres over a two-week period.
“No specific issues were brought to my department’s attention regarding the premises arising from their visit,” Minister Flanagan said.
Meanwhile, last week in the Dáil, Clare TD Michael McNamara called on the minister to investigate the allegations quickly and he acknowledged on Wednesday “that appears to have been done”.
He further commented, “The direct provision system generally needs to be reformed and replaced. In the meantime, the department needs to continue to ensure that value for money is being obtained for the Irish taxpayer and those accommodated in the accommodation which it is paying for.”