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Deaths in Direct Provision to be recorded and released by Department for first time

It comes after a number of TDs and Senators called for greater transparency.

DEATHS IN DIRECT Provision are to be formally recorded and released for the first time, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has confirmed. 

Minister Roderic O’Gorman has requested that officials at his Department develop a formal policy of recording deaths of people who die in Ireland’s asylum system, a spokesperson for the Department said. 

It comes after a number of TDs and Senators called for greater transparency about people who died while living in Direct Provision centres in an open letter to O’Gorman earlier this week. 

The letter – signed by 15 opposition TDs and 8 Senators – described “secrecy” around Ireland’s Direct Provision system as “concerning”.

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The Department of Justice & Equality – which administered Direct Provision until last October – did not gather information on people who passed away in the system and only released statistics on a periodic basis through Freedom of Information requests.

It stopped releasing any information on deaths in 2017. 

After the death of an asylum seeker – who was later buried without loved ones being informed – in 2018, the Department developed a Critical Incident Policy but said it had “no role” in gathering statistics for people who died in Direct Provision. 

The Central Statistics Office last year attempted to source data on deaths in Direct Provision over the past five years as part of the State’s response to Covid-19.

There is, however, no centralised record of names, dates, nationalities or cause of death for people who have applied for International Protection in Ireland, and who die while living in Direct Provision centres, despite calls by NGOs to provide greater transparency.

Between 2007 and 2017, 44 people died in Direct Provision, including three stillborn babies and one neonatal death, according to information released under FOI. 

Four people died while living in Direct Provision in 2020. No cause of death in these cases has been published by the State. 

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A spokesperson for the DCEDIY said: “All deaths and serious incidents that occur within accommodation centres provided by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth are referred to the Gardaí as a matter of course and the Gardaí in turn refer all deaths to the local Coroner’s office. 

“Investigations and inquests into the cause of a death are entirely a matter for those authorities.

“Following a review of the current operating procedures, Minister O’Gorman has requested that a formal policy be developed on the provision of statistics of any deaths of International Protection applicants resident in accommodation centres.

“The policy will also include publication of statistics on known historical deaths of residents,” they said. 

The Government is next week to publish a White Paper for ending Ireland’s controversial asylum system which is expected to focus on housing solutions and on alternative models of accomodation. 

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