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The food is 'horrible' and the men are 'creepy' - Children in direct provision speak out

It’s part of a report commissioned by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Sophia Sharma joins protesters outside Leinster House earlier this year.
Sophia Sharma joins protesters outside Leinster House earlier this year.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

This article was first published at 10.29pm, 18 July

AN OFFICIAL REPORT into how children in direct provision system feel about their circumstances has found that some have been the victims of racism while others complain about “overcrowded” and “dirty” conditions.

Researchers from the Child Law Clinic at University College Cork carried out the research and spoke to children in the direct provision system aged between 8-17.

Among the issues the children pointed to were the length of time they are forced to stay in the direct provision system. A number of children said they have lived in the system since they were born.

Others say they have been victimised because they live in direct provisions and face racism in school.

Other children said they feel unsafe having to live in the same centres as single men.

Direct provision centres house asylum applicants and their families while applications are being processed but the conditions in which the people are held and the length of time they are required to stay there has been frequently criticised.

The report states that while some of the children spoke about “the amazing community” there,

the majority of those consulted are highly critical of what they state are the “overcrowded” and “dirty” conditions under which they are forced to live for long periods of time. They say that they do not like the system, that it is “not fair”, “not safe,” and that they are frequently subjected to rudeness and insensitive treatment by staff (including security staff) and by adults living in the centres.

The report also states that “racism and stigma was an underlying theme” that ran through the children’s testimonies with some describing instances of both implicit and explicit racism.

In one instance, a child aged 8-12 years describes feeling picked on in school by a teacher:

And our school, our teacher, my teacher shouts at me more than – my teacher doesn’t love me more than – she likes the other kids instead of me. There’s another girl from Romania that gets like that, bullied.

Some children also said they disliked being called “refugees and asylum seekers” by staff or by other residents who have already got their papers.

Food

The report also states that a recurring theme among the children and young people consulted was an unhappiness with the quality of the food they are provided with in their direct provision centres.

The diets were described in various disparaging ways such as, “horrible and disgusting”, “always the same” and “the food has no taste,” according to the report.

A number of children mentioned that they were not allowed to cook their own food so always had to eat Irish or Polish cooking by staff at the centres.

“The food is not good – we eat Irish food and drink – they should cook African food or let us do it ourselves,” one child aged between 8-12 told the researchers.

Another complaint from the children was a lack of space for play and recreation with some pointing out that common areas were regularly occupied by single men.

“We do not get to use the room where there is two pool tables and a big TV because the men are always there,” said one child aged between 8-12 years.

“There is so many men, and coz they look creepy look at you,” another child aged 13-18 said.

Reaction

The report was welcomed by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan who said hearing the voices of children will help direct policy.

“This report is an important contribution to our policy development in this area and the stories of children and young people living in State-provided accommodation continue to contribute to the ongoing improvements in services in accommodation centres,” the minister said.

Others have reacted less positively, however.  Tanya Ward of the Children’s Rights Alliance said that it is of “deep concern” that some children feel unsafe in direct provision centres.

“The safety and welfare of children in direct provision cannot be compromised any longer,” she stated.

“A dedicated child protection and welfare strategy needs to be developed and implemented immediately as the Children’s Rights Alliance has been calling for some time. ”

The report can be read in full here.

Read: ‘Hypocrisy in cheering for our gay Taoiseach, and turning a blind eye to his policies’ >

Read: Bohemians have invited up to 80 Direct Provision Centre residents to attend Dalymount Park tonight >

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