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Committee Chairman, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin launched the report today. Sam Boal
Asylum Seekers

Direct Provision should be 'replaced' or 'fundamentally reformed', Justice Committee concludes

The committee heard from stakeholders in relation to Direct Provision over the summer.

IRELAND’S “FLAWED” DIRECT Provision system should be either replaced or undergo  “root-and branch reform”, an Oireachtas Committee report has said. 

The Oireachtas Committee on Justice today published its lengthy report into Ireland’s system of provision for asylum seekers, arguing it does not respect the rights to privacy and human dignity of those living in Direct Provision centres. 

Over the summer, the committee heard from various stakeholders in relation to Direct Provision. 

In its report today, it called for the government to move away from a reliance on private companies to provide accommodation for asylum seekers and that the Justice Department should establish an independent inspectorate for Direct Provision centres. 

“There is a need for regular, unannounced monitoring and inspections of direct provision centres, possibly by extending the remit of the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) into this area,” the report states. 

It also said a legal requirement should be placed on Local Authorities to develop integration strategies for asylum seekers and that “extensive training” should be provided to personnel working within the Direct Provision system. 

‘Greatly Concerned’

Established in 1999 in response to a sharp increase in the number of people seeking asylum in Ireland, Direct Provision has been repeatedly criticised by migrant rights groups due to the length of time people remain there while their asylum applications or appeals are processed, the conditions in the centres and the psychological impact this has on those living in the centres. 

It’s estimated that over 60,000 asylum seekers have been placed in Direct Provision since its introduction. 

The Committee said it is also “greatly concerned” by evidence that the use of emergency accommodation such as hotels and guest houses, which was intended as a stop-gap measure, risks “becoming entrenched within the system”.

Since September 2018, asylum seekers have been placed in hotels and B&Bs due to pressure on the Department’s sourcing of accommodation. 

There are currently over 1,500 international protection applicants – including 226 children – living in emergency accommodation with 37 hotels and B&Bs in counties contracted by RIA to provide bed and board.

The average daily rate across Direct Provision centres is €35, according to the Department of Justice & Equality. The average cost for emergency accommodation is €100 per person per night, recently reported

‘Best Practice’ 

In addition to these recommendations, the report – which has made 43 recommendations in total – has called for the waiting time for permitting asylum seekers to work – currently 9 months – to be reduced. 

The Justice Committee said that it “strongly believes this waiting period should be significantly reduced, and that consideration ought to be given to removing it entirely”.

It also said priority should be given to providing private, non-shared rooms to trafficked people who have been sexually abused.

“Over the course of our engagements, it became abundantly clear to the Committee that the Direct Provision system is flawed and in need of fundamental and ambitious reform, or preferably, replacement, Committee Chairman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said ahead of today’s report launch.

“This Committee is, therefore, of the view that an expert group be established to conduct a comparative analysis of best practices in other jurisdictions that may be adapted in Ireland.”

The report and recommendations will now be presented to Minister for Justice & Equality, Charlie Flanagan. 

Welcoming today’s report, Fiona Finn, CEO of Nasc, Migrants Right and Refugee Centre said: “With the current use of emergency accommodation and the urgent need for long-term accommodation places, we must be vigilant against regressing to ‘more of the same’ model of institutionalised settings in for-profit Direct Provision centres.”

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, meanwhile, said today’s report “is a clear vision of how to improve our treatment of people seeking asylum.

Importantly, said Henderson, “it also represents a clear cross party agreement on this approach.”

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