Impact of the Transfer System in Direct Provision (2011)

“It was sleepless nights, to be honest, then the letter came a few days later” – Direct Provision and Asylum in Ireland: The transfer system and its consequences.

Introduction 

The change in quality of life and accommodation that the closure of Sarsfield Hotel has meant for its former residents has proved a shock to many; Sarsfield was perceived generally by the residents as a pleasant hotel in terms of both facilities and management, and most of the respondents were distressed by the worsening of their living conditions after their transfer.

About half of the respondents said that the people in Sarsfield Hotel were “like a family” for them. Many of the respondents asked us if we could get Sarsfield Hotel reopened, demonstrating their desire to return to Sarsfield and/or Limerick City, for those who were transferred away. Doras of course informed them that we could not make this happen, and that we were speaking to them in the hope of preventing other asylum-seekers having to go through the difficulties they had experienced throughout their transfers.

We witnessed (through clients in the Doras drop-in centre) and later learned of some disturbing cases of transfer in which asylum-seekers were treated with what appeared to be very little dignity, stories which are outlined in this report. A few of our respondents lamented to us, about the handling of their transfer by officials. From a side line view, in some of the cases outlined below, it is hard to contest this statement. Some cases, such as that of an asylum-seeker who has been transferred to five different accommodations in two years, are difficult to comprehend. We also interviewed asylum-seekers who were initially moved far from Limerick, only to be transferred back to a different Limerick area accommodation within two weeks, after making medical and other special requests to RIA that were granted. There appears to be an ad hoc system of moving individuals to address the issues of bed spaces and hostel demands rather than the needs of the individual. Without the evidence of a transparent and clear transfer policy it is very difficult for residents or the NGO sector to grasp the reasons for the decisions to move people and that in itself creates a sense, legitimate or otherwise, of injustice and persecution, for example: many people believe they are transferred to the worst or the most isolated of hostels because they make a complaint through the complaints mechanism within the Direct Provision system or because they spoke publically against the system. Others believe they have identified the “punishment” hostels. Without an apparent rationale presented for transferring, individuals have difficulty in believing otherwise. The most glaring recommendation that we can ascertain from even initial findings prior to the second interview is that asylum-seekers should be given an opportunity to express these needs and preferences before their transfer assignments are issued, saving both money (in reduced transportation costs) and everyone’s time and energy. Further recommendations will be made throughout and at the close of this report.