Irish MEP’s will make an official visit to Cloverhill Prison detention facilities, to assess the situation of unsuccessful asylum seekers and irregular migrants detained there and awaiting deportation. The inspection will be undertaken by Simon Coveney, Proinsias de Rossa, Bairbre de Bruin, Marian Harkin, Jim O Higgins and Gay Mitchell.
The visit is at the request of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) which has organised similar inspections in other European countries, and was involved in the visit to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa where MEPs said they were stunned at the conditions there for detainees, describing them as utterly unacceptable in their follow up report. On foot of their complaints the EU parliament will make a follow up inspection there this Sept. 15th.
Fr John Dardis, Jesuit Provincial and former Director of JRS Europe will accompany the delegation along with Renaud DeVillaine, their Policy Officer who says, “There are many things the MEPs will want to find out : Exactly who are detained? Are there vulnerable people such as unaccompanied minors, pregnant women, elderly persons, victims of torture, families? Do they have special treatment? Are their rights respected? How long are they held in detention-the average and maximum duration?”
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture issued a report in 2002 denouncing bad living conditions and overcrowding in Irish Prisons. According to John Dardis SJ this visit is an opportunity to see whether the situation has changed since then. “How many asylum seekers and irregular migrants are detained in Cloverhill- is the prison overcrowded? Do they live in proper hygienic conditions (food, bath, toilets)? Can they go outside to exercise or play sport? All these things we just don’t know and hopefully the MEPs will be able to answer us when they come out.”
The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice will launch the updated Detention In Europe Report to coincide with the visit. The Centre opposes the Government proposal to introduce detention at the point of entry suggested in the recent Immigration and Residency Bill Discussion Document. There is strong international evidence as well as legal, ethical and theological argument to challenge this proposal.