Ireland’s asylum accommodation system of ‘Direct provision’ under fire

by zoejardiniere

05.04.2013. The children’s charity Barnardos has strongly criticised the policy of moving child asylum seekers in Ireland into ‘direct provision’ reception centres when they reach the age of 18. The direct provision system requires asylum seekers to live in the state designated accommodation centres, without being allowed to work or study and being dependent on an allowance of €19.10 per week.

At the launch of a new report, commissioned by Barnardos and the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE), the Head of Advocacy at Barnardos, Catherine Joyce said that twenty years from now, the Irish will “look back in horror” at the way these young people were treated as soon as they were no longer legally minors. The move to direct provision creates uncertainty, fear, and can be detrimental to asylum seekers’ mental health, possibly undoing positive developments achieved through earlier successful care placements, the research has found.

The Irish Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, has responded to the report by calling for the government to put in place legal provisions for continued care for asylum seeking children, beyond their 18th birthday, saying that the current system represented a “fundamental flaw and deficit” in protection.

Other findings of the report were largely positive, welcoming improvements that have been seen in the care of asylum seeking children since the end of the hostel-based care system, which had been severely criticised for failing to provide vulnerable children with adequate care. However, according to the authors of the report, some consulted stakeholders, NGOs and advocacy groups in particular, were wary in their praise. Although better than the previous system, concerns remain over foster care for these children, and the report highlights that the process of matching individual children to appropriate foster families still needs improvement.

The foster care system in Ireland has been the subject of controversy in recent months following a report by Ireland’s Health Information and Quality Authority that revealed that hundreds of foster children in deprived areas of the country were being housed with unsuitable families.

The Irish Refugee Council (IRC) has an on-going campaign against housing children in direct provision accommodation. 23 April will be a nationwide day of action under the banner End institutionalised living:  Direct Provision – No place to call home. Further details are available from campaign@irishrefugeecouncil.ie

Academics have also levelled criticism at the system with Liam Thornton, Lecturer in Law at University College Dublin, maintaining that “a system that indefinitely denies a right to work no matter how long it takes to take a decision on  a refugee/subsidiary protection/leave to remain claim and forces some asylum seekers into communal living for years on end is not fit for purpose.”

For further information:

–         Irish Refugee Council, State sanctioned child poverty and exclusion:  the case of children in state accommodation for asylum seekers, September 2012

–         Irish Refugee Council, Open letter to Alan Shatter TD, Minister for Justice, 2 November 2012

–         Human Rights in Ireland, The Direct Provision System: The Time for Change is Now, 27 March 2013

–         Irish Times, Inhumane asylum-seeker system needs radical reform, 23 March 2013

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