Open letter to Government regarding Direct Provision from Shining Light Galway

Vusi Thabethe of Shining Light Galway reads an open letter to Government regarding the appalling conditions for people living in Direct Provision on 11/08/21. Video by Blake Jones, Common Society Issues.

Vusi Thabethe, Chair and co-founder of community group Shining Light Galway, has walked from Galway to Dublin for six days, setting off on Friday 6 August and arriving Wednesday 11 August, to deliver an open letter from Shining Light Galway to the Irish Government, protesting the appalling conditions suffered by people living in Direct Provision in Ireland, and asking for immediate changes. See the full letter below:

11 August 2021

To Government representatives and State officials,

We are writing to convey our deep concern about the living conditions and mental health of people living in the Direct Provision system, which we believe is not fit for purpose and does not fulfil the State’s duty of care towards all residents of Ireland. This is an urgent matter which absolutely cannot wait until a proposed 2024 as laid out in the Government White Paper in early 2021.

We have been in direct contact with residents of Co. Galway’s Direct Provision centres since the foundation of Shining Light Galway in early 2020, distributing donated items of food, clothing, toys, books, and sanitary items (at least twice per week). 

These people have come to Ireland looking for protection, often fleeing violence and having suffered trauma, only to be further traumatised by their poor treatment in Direct Provision. They are treated like prisoners under house arrest, with curfews. Residents are not allowed guests, nor are partners allowed to come to visit or live with them. Single people must often share rooms with strangers.

One resident, expecting her fourth child later this month, has been living in a cramped apartment with her family for almost four years. She says her living situation is “becoming unbearable”. By the time the proposed new system comes into place, her unborn child will be a toddler and may still be living in Direct Provision. 

Direct Provision centres in Ireland house many qualified people that could fill employment gaps: nurses, engineers, carers, solicitors etc. Most people are not allowed to work.

Another resident has been living in Direct Provision with his wife and four children for almost six years. He has been repeatedly refused a work permit, despite receiving multiple job offers. He wants to support his family and live independently, but refuses to work illegally to do so.

The weekly allowances of €38.80 per adult and €29.80 per child are not sufficient to live on.

The food offered to residents is often substandard and very unlike the diet people were used to in their countries of origin, which can lead to poor digestive health. Meals are served at prescribed times giving people very little choice in what and when they eat. People spend their meagre allowances on food and have nothing left for clothing, furniture, toiletries and transport. Even toilet paper provided at the centres is rationed to one roll between up to four people. 

It has been left to volunteer groups like us, using our own resources to provide these basic necessary items and services. These should be provided by the organisations being paid large sums of money by the state to run these centres at a profit.

People have no privacy and no dignity. They are suffering from stress, anxiety and depression. This has been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been especially difficult for residents of Direct Provision centres. They live in overcrowded conditions making it impossible to abide by social distancing guidelines, and their sub-standard diet leaves them already vulnerable to ill health. 

We request the following, with immediate effect: 

  • Clear and timely communication on visa applications for residents, including swift & time efficient processing.
  • Investigation and regular inspections of Direct Provision centres to ensure compliance with both the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003.
  • Mental health and wellbeing supports.
  • Investigation and audits into the upholding of the Children First Act, 2015 & its provisions regarding the safeguarding of all children living in Ireland from harm and abuse.
  • Leave to remain: Permission to work for all qualified Direct Provision residents and further training/educational opportunities.

Yours sincerely,

Signed for and on behalf of Shining Light Galway 

Vusi Thabethe

Chair and Co-Founder

Shining Light Galway