Friends of a resident of a Direct Provision centre have said they are devastated that she was buried by the State without their knowledge following her death last year.

Sylva Tukula died on 2 August 2018 and after efforts to contact her next-of-kin in South Africa failed, she was buried at the beginning of May.

She was a transgender woman in her 30s living in an all-male Direct Provision centre in Galway. Her death was due to natural causes.

Maria Molloy, vice chairperson of Amach LGBT+ Galway, said  Sylva moved from a centre in Dublin to Galway over a year prior to her death.

"She accessed the Teach Solais LGBT resource centre. As a member of the community, she obviously wanted to search for a haven from the direct provision centre and to be seen as an equal among her community. 

"She rapidly became friends with many of the service users of the resource centre and became friends with many people outside of the wider community as well".

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Ms Molloy said: "Sylva unfortunately had many battles within the Direct Provision system and unfortunately this final failure of the system in her death is very much rubbing salt into the wounds of many of her friends.

"We are devastated at the last circumstances of her burial," she added.

The Minister for Justice said what happened in relation to the burial of Ms Tukula will not happen again.

Charlie Flanagan said he very much regrets the circumstances and he offered his sympathies and condolences to Sylva's friends.

He said lessons have been learned and there will not be a recurrence again.

He also said he understood that Minister of State for Equality, Immigration, and Integration, David Stanton had been in touch with the community and that an appropriate commemorative service would be held at the earliest opportunity.

"I very much regret what happened, it will not be repeated," he said

Ms Molloy said Teach Solais had some informal contacts with the authorities and the direct provision centre after Sylva's death, and they felt that they had a lot of support and that everybody wanted to do best by Sylva. 

They marked her passing with a small memorial service at the time.

Ms Molloy said they were assured that when Sylva's body was released they would be notified of the funeral arrangements and would be an integral part of marking Sylva's burial.

Eventually, Sylva was buried without any of her friends present, which was "devastating news" for friends, the wider LGBT community and members in direct provision, said Ms Molloy.

"We were under the impression that we would be notified, we did get a notification from...David Stanton and he expressed his sympathies with regard to this and alluded to the fact that there was a breakdown in communications.

"They gave us a chronological order of RIA's (the Reception and Integration Agency) attempts to contact and to keep track of the whole progress. 

"But unfortunately there seemed to be a breakdown in communication when the body was released, and Sylva was buried without ceremony, without friends, and we were only told afterwards that this had occurred."

Galway City Coroner Dr Kieran McLoughlin was previously quoted as saying that he was not informed that Ms Tukula's friends were waiting to receive her body.

Ms Molloy said: "What we are calling for is answers to the questions that have been brought to light.

"We think the system has failed Sylva and we would hope that processes will be put in place that this will never happen again, and that relative stakeholders would have to be notified at several stages to ensure that this tragic outcome would not occur in the future."

The Amach group is working with RIA and the local direct provision centre to organise a ceremony to mark Sylva's burial. 

The group is calling for the grave to be properly maintained, and there are plans for a headstone to be erected.

Ms Molloy said the reaction from the others living in the direct provision centre was "shock initially, disgust, abhorrence that someone could be treated in this way, and fear for themselves that this potentially could happen to them.

"We hope that one positive that could come out of this horrible situation is that we could ensure with the relevant bodies that this never happens again," she added.

In a statement, the Irish Refugee Council called for an urgent review of how deaths in Direct Provision are handled by the State.

It said clear processes must be in place and there must be clear communication channels between the State and friends and residents of Direct Provision centres.

In a statement, the Department of Justice said it shares the intent of Ms Molloy for this not to happen again and expressed deepest sympathies and condolences to the friends and colleagues of Ms Tukula.

It said the department also intends to liaise with her friends and hold an appropriate memorial event in the locality which they can attend.

Minister of State Stanton said that it is clear there was a breakdown in communication in this particular case "which the department very much regrets".

The Department will take "all necessary steps" to ensure that "this distressing outcome" is never repeated, including examining what the State actors can do differently in the event of the death of resident of direct provision whose next-of-kin cannot be contacted.