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Report questions if Direct Provision conditions ‘amount to child abuse’

Poverty, malnutrition, inadequate heating, overcrowding and poor insulation are all impacting on children’s health in Direct Provision, the report says.

Sue Conlan, CEO Irish Refugee Council. The Irish Refugee Council, at the launch of the report today
Sue Conlan, CEO Irish Refugee Council. The Irish Refugee Council, at the launch of the report today

CHILDREN IN THE Direct Provision system are experiencing a lack of space, problems with food, poverty and other conditions which could have an impact on their wellbeing, the Irish Refugee Council has indicated in a new report today.

The report, State Sanctioned Child Poverty and Exclusion, looks at the impact on children of state accommodation for asylum seekers.

In the report, the IRC asks:

However, the question remains: does the sustained and prolonged restriction of human rights and civil liberties inherent in the Direct Provision system amount to child abuse?

Direct Provision

The report looks at the system of Direct Provision, as well as complaints and concerns about now-closed hostels, overcrowding and family life, children and poverty, food and malnutrition and more.

Initially the system of Direct Provision was only intended to house applicants for six months, but the average stay today is four years.

  • One third (1,789) of the 5,098 residents in Direct Provision are children.
  • Those within Direct Provision have an income of an allowance of €19.10 per week for an adult and €9.60 for a child.
  • A considerable amount of children living in Direct Provision are Irish citizens having been born in Ireland, said the report.

Family environment

According to the report, parents in Direct Provision “are unable to care for or govern the rules and customs of their family and the upbringing of their children due to the restrictions of living in centres”.

[It is] an unnatural family environment that is not conducive to positive development in children.

In its executive summary, the report said that Direct Provision “has not only bred discrimination, social exclusion, enforced poverty and neglect, but has placed children at a real risk”.

Issues

The report highlights many issues, including:

  • Hostel closures resulting in overcrowding in other centres
  • Children’s play areas being worn down from overuse or from other residents and accommodation centres getting older.
  • The Irish Refugee Council regularly receives complaints regarding physical conditions ranging from cleanliness to safety
  • Complaints about inadequate heating and poor insulation
  • Children being the victims of damaged property and aggression from other residents
  • Parents not being provided with the support needed “to adequately protect their children from the dangers of the environment around them”.
  • Families have very little control over the physical condition of the room that they share and don’t have any control over the condition of the centre itself

The report notes that a Kerry-based doctor based found that ‘rates of depression and anxiety among the town’s asylum-seekers are ‘much higher’ compared with native locals’.

In 2011, the IRC received correspondence from a family’s GP saying that three children were sharing one bed in one room with their parents in a separate bed.  The family requested a transfer or adjoining room.

The IRC “was assured that the family was provided with an additional cot and that the room met the relevant codes and requirements”.  The family remains in one room.

Malnutrition

The IRC said that some families have been affected by the inadequate provision of food, which led to:

instances of malnutrition among children and expectant mothers, ill-health related to diet among babies and young children, weight loss among children, hunger among adults (as a result of family rationing) and chronic gastric illness among children of all ages

A study undertaken in 2004 found that 92 per cent of respondents had to supplement the meals provided with their social welfare payments.

Social development

The report said the main barriers for young people accessing mainstream youth services were:

  • The family’s financial situation (not having pocket money to go along on free trips or money for sports equipment)
  • Lack of transportation between Direct Provision centres and town centres.

When it comes to school, transportation “has been a recurring issue”, while other centres don’t have room for children to do their homework. “Parents have noted that they must pay for work-books for their children out of their €19.10,” said the report.

Recommendations

The report makes a number of recommendations, and is also asking for a review of the Direct Provision system in line with Fine Gael and Labour commitments.

It is also calling for the establishment of an independent inquiry to investigate child protection concerns and grievances of these families.

Read: Closure of asylum seekers’ centre shows “disregard” for rights>

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