I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy David Stanton, to the Chamber.
Six months ago a Korean woman in her early thirties came to Ireland with her six-year-old son to seek asylum. On arriving, they were sent to Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre in Cork, where they slept in a cramped single room, washed with strangers in communal showers and ate at set times in the canteen. The mother was told she was prohibited from working. They were also told that they had no right to child maintenance, social welfare or rent allowance payments. Instead of being granted such basic rights, they were granted a weekly allowance of €30 between them, a pittance of a handout. Four weeks ago, after enduring six torturous and isolated months at the centre, gardaí were called to the centre to investigate the suicide of the very same young Korean mother. This is the direct provision system in Ireland in 2016.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, the secretary of the Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre Action Committee, Mr. Mahmud, publicly stated the inhumane treatment of this woman in a direct provision centre had triggered her suicide. His comments are far from controversial. He joins a plethora of organisations and reports that condemn direct provision as an horrendous, dysfunctional system in which the State has caused and continues to cause a great deal of physical and mental damage to asylum seekers.
In 2015 the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions described the direct provision system as not being fit for purpose. HIQA, in the same report, stated it had grave concerns about the mental health of those in such a system. In 2015 the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stated it was a severe violation of human rights.
We are leaving people in the centres for years. There are now over 4,500 asylum seekers in direct provision centres, over half of whom have been in the system for five years or longer. Imagine living for five years or more in a direct provision centre without being entitled to look for a job, a house or a third level education. We are sitting back and doing nothing while the people concerned watch years of their lives pass them by. Children are being born in direct provision centres and raised within a system that institutionalises them into accepting such a dysfunctional and inhumane way of life. How can we allow this to happen?
Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the former Minister of State with responsibility for equality issues, visited a centre in Galway and said the system was inhumane and that he would not stand over it. However, he has now left the Cabinet table and asylum seekers are still in the centre. What exactly will the Minister of State, Deputy David Stanton, do about it? Earlier this year the Government dropped its commitment to implementing the recommendations made in the McMahon report which called for reform of the direct provision system. That decision was a disgrace. When exactly will the report be implemented in full? When will asylum seekers be allowed access to third level education? When will they be allowed access to internships and apprenticeships? When will a standard setting committee and inspectorate be established? When will those in direct provision centres be given the right to work? When can we start to debate the system we would like to see replace the shameful and discredited direct provision system?