12 Dec 2019, 11.00

The Joint Committee on Justice and Equality, in a report launched today, describes the system of Direct Provision accommodation for people seeking international protection in Ireland as ‘not fit for purpose’, and calls for fundamental reform of the ‘flawed’ system.

Committee members found the current system of ‘shared, institutionalised living fails to fully respect the rights to privacy and human dignity of those placed in these centres’. The report of the all-party group of TDs and Senators found ‘significant issues identified with the system as a whole’. These included:

  • Inadequate supports and services that do not cater to the needs of vulnerable individuals arriving in Ireland;
  • Long delays in the single application process;
  • Issues with accessing the labour market; and
  • Issues relating to children in the direct provision system.

The Report on Direct Provision and the International Protection Application Process makes 43 conclusions and recommendations –– and follows a series of public hearings with stakeholder groups, the receipt of more than 140 written submissions and visits by the Committee to Direct Provision centres in Mosney and Monaghan.

The report recommends a shift towards ‘own door’ accommodation units for individuals and families; the involvement of approved housing bodies (AHBs) in providing accommodation and support services for protection applicants; and moving away from the current reliance on commercial and ‘for profit’ running of direct provision services across the country.

The report also recommends significant changes in how the direct provision and protection application systems operate, including supports and services within direct provision, right to work issues, treatment of children in direct provision and integration of applicants.

Committee Chairman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said: “The system of direct provision was introduced in Ireland in 2000 following a significant increase in the numbers applying for asylum here. In 2015, Mr Justice Brian McMahon’s Working Group reported to Government identifying many problems and issues of concern with direct provision and the supports available for asylum seekers. The McMahon Report contained 173 recommendations for improvements to the system. Despite some reform in the area, the current Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality deemed it  appropriate to re-address the issue in 2019 making it a priority issue in this year’s Work Programme.”

Deputy Ó Caoláin added: “Over the course of our engagements, it became abundantly clear to the Committee that the Direct Provision system is flawed and in need of fundamental and ambitious reform or, preferably, replacement. The Committee, therefore, is of the view that an expert group be established to conduct a comparative analysis of best practices in other jurisdictions that may be adapted for implementation in Ireland.A copy of this report and recommendations has been sent to the Minister for Justice and Equality. The Committee looks forward to working proactively and productively with the Minister to address issues in the direct provision system in the future.”  

Other key recommendations of the report include:

  • The current tendering process which requires providers to accommodate a minimum of 50 people per centre must be reduced so as to allow smaller providers and housing associations the opportunity to provide accommodation and services on a smaller and more manageable and flexible scale. 
  • A central requirement of any tendering process should be that accommodation is built or provided in locations that maximise integration with local communities and provide good access to transport links, services, amenities and employment opportunities.
  • The establishment of a refugee advisory board, as recommended by the McMahon Report and as provided for in the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) to provide oversight and monitoring of all matters relevant to the international protection application process and reception system.
  • Extensive training should be provided to all personnel working within the Direct Provision system, to include specialised training in dealing with the effects of trauma, sexual abuse and domestic violence, so as to allow for continual assessment and detection of mental health issues amongst individuals living within the system.
  • Children who arrive in Ireland unaccompanied are particularly vulnerable and should not be transferred automatically to the Direct Provision system on reaching the age of 18. They should remain under the responsibility of Tusla, retaining their supports, until their applications for asylum have reached a conclusion.
  • While welcoming the granting of limited access to the labour market for protection applicants, the Committee recommends extending the six-month limit for permits to at least one year for those who are eligible to work.
  • For those who are unable to access the labour market or formal education, the Committee believes that the comprehensive provision of training courses and learning opportunities is vital.
  • An individualised integration and transition plan for those who are granted status and leaving Direct Provision must be prepared and implemented. The Committee would like to see a comprehensive, multiagency approach to preparing individuals for the transition out of Direct Provision, finding accommodation, entering the labour market and integrating into their new community.

The Report on Direct Provision and the International Protection Application Process is available on the Oireachtas website, together with a separate booklet of submissions received.

ENDS

Note:

The Joint Committee on Justice and Equality held public engagements during May and June 2019 with the following stakeholders:

Mr Justice Brian McMahon; Immigrant Council of Ireland; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); Irish Refugee Council; Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI); Children’s Rights Alliance; Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Centre; Dr Liam Thornton; Officials from the Department of Justice and Equality.

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