The Government is unaware of the cause of death of more than one in three asylum seekers who die in State care, The Irish Catholic can reveal. The failure has been described as “despicable” by a leading campaigner for asylum seekers.
New statistics obtained by this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act show that 44 asylum seekers died while residents of controversial State-run direct provision centres over a ten-year period.
Fr Paddy Byrne, a curate in Co. Laois who ministers to residents in direct provision told The Irish Catholic that “we have learned nothing from the secrets of the past.
“This is a living injustice, it is a rotten disease, that the vast majority remain silent about,” he said.
However, the number of unexplained deaths may, in fact, be higher since accompanying documentation points out that where a cause of death is listed, this is only a suspected cause of death.
Of those for whom there is a suspected cause of death, two people are thought to have died as a result of suicide, one person as a result of a stabbing incident and another drowned in the last ten years.
In the case of a 16-year-old asylum seeker, the records record simply “sudden, died in school”. There is no further explanation. Fr Byrne recalled how he presided at the recent funeral of an asylum seeker who had died in State care. “I can only call it a horror story of a young woman who was forgotten by this society, who never felt hospitality and welcome”.
Stephen Ng’ang’a, who advocates for the rights of asylum seekers, said the poor record keeping “goes to show how careless the State is in terms of dealing with refugees and asylum seekers and their human dignity – whether they died of any cause – has been undermined.
“If they are treated as numbers or as non-entities or non-nationals or whatever stereotype associated with asylum seekers, I think it is despicable,” he said.