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Over 32,000 people sign petition calling for government to end Direct Provision

The system was set up as a temporary measure in 1999.

Image: PA Images

MORE THAN 32,000 people have signed a petition calling for the government to end the system of Direct Provision in Ireland.

The petition, which has been set up by the group Abolish Direct Provision Ireland, is demanding the government changes the system for housing asylum seekers.

The system was set up as a temporary measure in 1999 in response to an increase in the number of people seeking asylum in Ireland.

It has been criticised by migrant rights groups over conditions in the accommodation centres, the length of time people wait for their asylum applications or appeals to be processed and the impact this has on children.

Many people in Direct Provision centres share bedrooms with multiple people, particularly among the increasing numbers in emergency accommodation. 

Yesterday Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was criticised after defending Direct Provision, saying that although the system needs to change, it does not fuel racism and is a service provided by the State.

It followed calls from TDs in the Dáil to end Direct Provision, with some making comparisons between it and the killing of George Floyd in the US last week.

Varakdar said successive governments have tried and will continue to reform it but that it is an optional system.

“Direct Provision ultimately is a service offered by the State, it is not compulsory and it is not a form of detention, it is a service provided for by the state and they are provided with free accommodation, food, heat, light, healthcare and education and also some spending money,” he said.

“It is not the same thing as a man being killed by the police. Does it add to racism or not? I hope it doesn’t.”

Also commenting today, Rape Crisis Network Ireland asked Minister of Justice Charlie Flanagan to allow survivors of sexual violence living in Direct Provision to access support from their local Rape Crisis Centre.

All access to rape crisis support is currently done remotely, which makes problems for survivors in Direct Provision more acute, the network says.

“These vulnerable survivors often do not have their own phone but need to borrow one for phone calls,” Clíona Saidléar of the Rape Crisis Network Ireland said.

“They may only have access to phones that work on public WiFi, so struggle to make private calls. Our clients’ privacy is at risk every time we make a call.”

Earlier this year, Ombudsman Peter Tyndall raised concerns over accommodation in the Direct Provision system in his annual report.

He said the McMahon report – the recognised benchmark for Direct Provision services – had criticised the Department of Justice and Equality’s use of a definition from the 1966 Housing Act as the minimum space required for a bedroom.

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Ombudsman’s office staff visited 26 accommodation centres last year including some unannounced visits.

The Ombudsman saw a 10.5% increase in complaints, from 152 in 2018 to 168 in 2019.

Complaints concerned the length of time in emergency accommodation, transfers to other accommodation, access to schools for children, food facilities, and access to GP services and medical cards.

The Ombudsman said the most significant change in 2019 was the increase in the number of applicants for international protection temporarily living in emergency accommodation in hotels, guesthouses and bed and breakfasts.

A Black Lives Matter protest in Dublin on Monday in response to Floyd’s death also saw calls for an end to the system, while one organiser of protests across the country this weekend told TheJournal.ie this week that they would continue their demand tomorrow.

With reporting by Press Association.

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