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Court won't send family back to Direct Provision housing in Ireland due to child welfare concerns

The High Court in Northern Ireland quashed decision to return a Sudanese family to Direct Provision housing in Ireland.

Asylum seekers, refugees, human rights supporters and members of the public protest outside Leinster House
Asylum seekers, refugees, human rights supporters and members of the public protest outside Leinster House
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE NORTHERN IRISH High Court yesterday quashed a decision to return a Sudanese family to Direct Provision housing in Ireland on the grounds that it would not be in the best interests to the children.

UK immigration authorities decided to return the family to the Republic of Ireland where they had previously claimed asylum. However the court ruled that: “… there is a systemic deficiency, known to the United Kingdom, in Ireland’s asylum or reception procedures amounting to substantial grounds for believing that the asylum seeker would face a real risk of being subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment… on return to Ireland.”

Safeguard children

The judgement stated that “on the basis of a failure to have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of the children” the family would not be returned to Direct Provision housing in the Republic of Ireland.

Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said that the court’s decision is “is a sad, but accurate, reflection of a system that is failing to protect the best interests of children.  The reality is that asylum seekers can live independent lives in Northern Ireland, while just a few miles over the border they are forced to live in a state of institutionalised poverty.  Direct Provision simply is not suitable for families and vulnerable people”.

She said: “It is interesting that the judge laid emphasis on the absence of the right to work in Ireland and the negative impact this has had on the capacity of both the mother and the eldest child to work in Ireland or in their country of origin in the future.”

The judge noted that there was ample evidence of problems with enforced isolation and poverty and evidence of physical and mental health issues in the Direct Provision system.  He concluded that Ireland falls below the minimum standards for reception conditions accepted across the EU. The judgment was also highly critical about the lengthy delays and low recognition rate in the Irish system.

The judgement states that Direct Provision accommodation in Ireland does not have to comply with the minimum standards set out in Council Directive by the European Commission. It states: “Ireland has opted out of that directive… “.

Direct Provision Housing

“This ruling is very strong affirmation of what we have been saying for years. Direct Provision housing is not suitable for children. On a very basic level, it destroys the family structure. It is a communal setting with families often sharing the same room and bathroom facilities, sometimes with strangers. Children housed here are often witness to things that children should not see. Research shows that many adults living in the facilities have mental health issues, many having suffered trauma and torture in their home countries,” said Sharon Waters of the Irish Refugee Council.

The communal setting, Waters says, also allows children to be witness to sexual behaviour, which may not be untoward, but is common as people are housed in such close quarters.

Waters states that the government’s official line on Direct Provision housing is that it is “a pillar of the asylum system and the only problem is with the delays – that is not a realistic answer,” she said. “We would have serious concerns and there has not been a comprehensive investigation”.

Seven cases of sexual abuse reported in direct provision hostels in 2012>

Aaron McKenna: Asylum seekers are our new institutional home victims>

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