Direct provision is the modern-day version of the Magdalene Laundries, according to a local politician.
“Forcing families to live for years on end in these centres, while denying people the right to work and any income greater than a pittance, is cruel and inhumane,” said Cork North Central TD, Mick Barry.
“The direct provision system should be ended in 2017, and a just and humane alternative be put in place.”
The Anti-Austerity Alliance representative was commenting on the revelation that Millstreet direct provision centre is substantially over-capacity: 193 people live in accommodation for 170.
The occupancy issues were revealed by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), which has released statistics for last November.
Millstreet is one of only two direct provision centres in the country that are over-capacity — Mosney, in Co Meath, is the other.
Mr Barry said the fact that the centre has broken the official guidelines on maximum numbers is “adding insult to injury”.
The Millstreet centre, the running of which is handled by Millstreet Equestrian Services, had previously been contracted to house 200 people, up until August, 2014.
A Department of Justice spokesperson said Millstreet’s numbers have increased due to administrative issues that have yet to be resolved, after some families were granted asylum but have yet to move out.
“The contract in Millstreet was reduced, as it was anticipated that a number of families with status were scheduled to move out,” they said. “The moves are taking longer than expected. In the light of the delays experienced by people in moving to the community, the contract capacity will be reviewed in the new year.”
Cork’s other centres, at Glounthane, Kinsale Road, Wellington Road and Clonakilty Lodge, are all under-capacity, but only marginally.
There are 657 asylum seekers living in Cork’s direct provision centres — 100 under the collective capacity of 757. Dublin houses just 46 more people than Cork, despite having a capacity of 956.
The Kinsale Road accommodation is one of only three purpose-built centres in the country and it houses 218 people, the most asylum seekers in Cork.
The majority of direct provision centres are buildings which had a different original purpose, be it as hotels, guesthouses, hostels, convents, nursing homes, a holiday camp, and a mobile home site.
Cork’s asylum seekers account for just 0.12% of the county’s population.