'There was literally no food at asylum centre'; Hundreds protest in Limerick

Around 300 people attended a protest in Limerick city to call for the abolishment of direct provision centres which house asylum seekers in this country.

Men and women and children are fleeing savage conflicts and wars from far flung corners of the world, only to end up in "inhumane" Irish asylum centres where groups of strangers are forced to sleep in the same bedroom.

Some migrants who are awaiting decisions on their asylum application have been living here for 14 years on €19 a week.

The migrants are not allowed work and many have become victims to alcoholism, drugs and mental disorders. Many men have also been separated from their children.

Language barriers, loneliness and perceived lack of freedom are the main problems facing asylum seekers.

Jonathon Muhwezi at today's protest in Limerick. Pic: Press 22

Jonathon Muhwezi, a qualified chemist, from Uganda fled his native country five years ago. The father-of-two showed scars on his hands where he was slashed with a machete after "speaking out" against the authorities in his home country.

"The asylum system is appalling. The way we are treated in hostels is appalling. There is no procedure for complaints about the management. I've been in seven hostels...some where our rooms were ransacked and our documents confiscated when we are not around.

"There was one hostel where we were not given any food. There was no food. And when I say no food, there was literally no food given to us whatsoever."

Jonathon, 36, said: "I do want to work. I'm a chemist, a pharmacist. I've got a degree in pharmacy and I want to work but we are not allowed to work. I've got two children (in Ireland). I've got one in

Cork and one in Dublin. I can't even live with my children. It's appalling the way we are being treated."

A five-year-old girl born in Ireland, whose mum is Nigerian, at today's protest in Limerick. Pic: Press 22

Migrant group, Doras Luimní, that organised the protest, has called for the immediate closure of Mount Trenchard direct provision centre in Foynes, Co Limerick, and it has been backed by the Irish Refugee Council.

Four residents remain on hunger strike there after refusing food earlier this week.

Karen McHugh, CEO of Doras Luimní, said: "The lengthy delays have led to an institutionalisation which has had significant mental health consequences for those trapped in the system. Mount Trenchard as an institution cannot and does not meet the mental health needs of its residents: there is very limited support available for a very vulnerable group.

"The isolation of Mount Trenchard, located five kilometres from Foynes village, and its overcrowded and inhumane living conditions that sees eight male adults of different nationalities sharing a room, contributes to an environment that exacerbates the volatility of the centre."

The Minister for Justice, Francis Fitzgerald, has pledged to reform the system of direct provision.

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