A detainee may receive a visit from a relative, friend or other person with an interest in his or her welfare provided the detainee consents and the Garda member in charge is satisfied that the visit can be adequately supervised and that it will not be prejudicial to the interests of justice. A detainee may make a telephone call of reasonable duration free of charge to a person reasonably named by him or her or send a letter.1 A prison visiting committee is appointed to each prison under the Prisons (Visiting Committees) Act 1925 and Prisons (Visiting Committees) Order 1925. The function of visiting committees is to visit the prison to which they are appointed and hear any complaints made to them by any prisoner. The committee reports to the Minister any abuses observed or found by them in the prison and any repairs which they think may be urgently needed. The visiting committee has free access, either collectively or individually, to every part of their prison. In inspecting prisons, the visiting committees focus on issues such as the quality of accommodation and the catering, medical, educational and welfare services and recreational facilities.
The visiting committee for Cloverhill Prison, where the majority of asylum seekers are detained, stated in their 2012 annual report that the issue of foreign nationals being held in Cloverhill contributed to overcrowding and that the committee suggested that they should not be held in prison but elsewhere.2 The committee stated that the main issues raised by prisoners (it is unknown whether any of these prisoners were asylum seekers) were requests for non-smoking cells, return to general population, access to the gym, medical issues, visits, harassment, education and access to the prison shop.
Media and politicians do not generally have access to prisons. There is no dedicated NGO or other organisation that provides services and information to asylum seekers and migrants who are detained. Prisoners can access lawyers but they need to ask for it. There is not enough detention of asylum seekers in Ireland to have such a service at the moment though that may change of course if Dublin airport gets a dedicated immigration facility.