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Lissywollen Direct Provision centre, Co Westmeath
Lissywollen Direct Provision centre, Co Westmeath
Image: Asylum Archive

'Deeply concerned': Calls for vulnerability assessments for asylum seekers

These assessments are legally required.
May 26th 2019, 3:01 PM 13,872 27

MIGRANT RIGHTS GROUPS have expressed concern at a lack of vulnerability assessments available to people seeking asylum in Ireland.

Ireland is legally required to conduct these assessments, which aim to identify special reception needs for asylum seekers and refugees, since signing up to the EU Reception Conditions directive last year. 

Around 1,700 people have claimed asylum in Ireland since July 2018, Nick Henderson of the Irish Refugee Council has said, “many of whom have been in very difficult conditions in emergency centres,” he added. 

Since September, the Reception & Integration Agency has accommodated international asylum applicants in emergency set-ups, gradually moving some to more permanent Direct Provision centres. 

The Department of Justice & Equality has paid nearly €7 million to private contractors and businesses since September for the use of these premises and for providing on-site services. 

Campaigners and NGOs have, however, criticised the instability of locating asylum seekers in hotels and B&Bs in remote areas, raising concerns about the increase of people living in emergency accommodation and the level of service provision. 

In addition to a lack of vulnerability assessments available, specific concerns have been raised about the remote locations of hotels and B&Bs, a lack of educational access for children and facilities available to people. 

“Each person, under law, should have had this [vulnerability] assessment within 30 days of making their asylum application, to identify if they are vulnerable and what additional supports they need,” Henderson has said. 

“This has not happened.”

‘Clearly in need’

Increased pressure on RIA – which is responsible for overseeing the Department of Justice & Equality’s accommodation portfolio and providing initial services for asylum seekers and refugees entering Ireland – has meant sourcing emergency set-ups, according to a department spokesperson.

With Ireland’s Direct Provision centres mostly at capacity, there are currently over 500 people living in 19 hotels and B&Bs in eight counties – including 88 children. 

The eight organisations – including MASI and Spirasi – calling for vulnerability assessments to be implemented have said that LGBTQI+ people as well as victims of torture and trafficking are at risk without these assessments. 

“Some of the international protection applicants we come across are clearly in need of such and we fear the longer it takes to assess their needs might lead to a deterioration of their physical & mental health,” Reuben Hambakachere of migrant rights group Cultúr has said.

“An early vulnerability assessment will identify the appropriate supports and reduce the sufferings of many who arrive at our shores in need of all the support they could get”. 

The group Spirasi, which works victims of torture, has said that people are often not identified until they’re months or years into the process of seeking protection in Ireland while Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre, has said it’s “deeply concerned” at the continued lack of vulnerability assessments. 

NASC CEO Fiona Finn said “this assessment is a legal obligation not an optional extra”. 

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Cónal Thomas

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