Conditions in detention facilities

Republic of Ireland

Country Report: Conditions in detention facilities Last updated: 23/04/21

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As mentioned in Place of Detention, the Reception Conditions Regulations amend the places an asylum seeker can be detained to include any police station and Cloverhill Prison. Whether this means that female detainees will now no longer be detained in a female-only prison is unknown.

Regulation 19 of the Reception Conditions Regulations sets out detention conditions in that detained applicants shall: (a) be kept separately from any prisoner detained in the place of detention; (b) be kept separately from other third country nationals who are not applicants and who are detained in the place of detention; and (c) have access to open air spaces.

With respect to vulnerable applicants who are detained, Regulation 19(9), provides that the Minister shall ensure that the person is monitored regularly and that he or she is provided with adequate support, taking into account the person’s individual situation, including their health.

Under Regulation 19(6), all applicants are entitled to information on (a) the rules applicable to the place of detention and (b) that person’s rights and obligations while detained, in a language they can understand, which should include their entitlement to legal representation.

In late November 2020, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture released its 7th periodic visit report on Ireland. In the report, the Committee reiterated its long-standing call for Irish authorities to suspend the use of prisons for immigration detention, noting that “a prison is by definition not a suitable place in which to detain someone who is neither suspected nor convicted of a criminal offence.”[1] The Committee reported that it had met with several immigration detainees who detailed the harassment and abuse they had received from other prisoners. It noted, for example, a case whereby a “middle-aged diminutive foreign national was placed in a cell with two young remand prisoners who allegedly attempted to rape him as well as physically aggressed and verbally intimidated him.”[2]

 Particular issues of concern also emerged regarding the spread of Covid-19 in prisons that are used to hold immigration detainees. In this regard, a number of measures were implemented in prisons in an attempt to combat the spread of Covid-19. At the onset of the pandemic, the Minister for Justice granted temporary release to a number of low risk prisoners in order to reduce occupancy and enable greater social distancing throughout the prison system. Information leaflets and newsletters are regularly handed out to prisoners and staff in order to raise awareness of the particular risks posed by Covid-19 in a custodial environment and to provide updates on the measures being taken by the service to keep prisoners and staff safe.[3] The Irish Prison Service has also implemented Covid-19 screening measures at all prisons and any prisoner who experiences symptoms of Covid-19 is immediately assessed by prison healthcare staff, isolated and tested where necessary. The Irish Prison Service has opened a specific unit at Cloverhill Prison to allow for the isolation of confirmed Covid-19 cases among the prison population. This unit is used to accommodate symptomatic prisoners until such a time as they are cleared from isolation through the Covid-19 testing process. [4]

As of January 2021, the total number of prisoners tested postive for Covid-19 since March 2020 was 51.[5] In Cloverhill Prison, a number of inmates and staff are known to have contracted the virus, while five prisoners in the Midlands Prison were also reported to have tested positive as of October 2020. Both the Cloverhill and Midlands prisons are used to confine migrants and asylum seekers.

[1] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, Report to the Government of Ireland on the visit to Ireland carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment from 23 September to 4 October 2019, 24 November 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3p2o2La, 17.

[2] Ibid, 17. 

[3]Department of Justice, Information regarding the Justice Sector COVID-19 plans, 13 November 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3aoow9r.

[4]  Ibid.

[5]  Irish Prison Service, Confirmed Cases of Covid 19 in Irish Prisons, 21 January 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3arJKDg.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation