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One person has been in an asylum centre for 11 years - this is how they live

Serious concerns have been expressed about the quality of life children in direct provision have.

Image: Doras Luimni

FIFTEEN YEARS ON from the establishment of the Direct Provision accommodation system for asylum seekers, an Oireachtas Committee has deemed it “not fit for purpose”.

For 11 of those years, one resident has been living within the system, without any privacy, without the ability to work or even cook their own meals and without any indication of when a final decision will be made about whether or not they have been granted asylum in Ireland.

This resident has been in the system longer than any of the others, according to the report from the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions. However, 25% of the 4,630 residents have been living in these centres for six years or more, with the average length of time being four years.

Members of the committee visited a number of the direct provision centres and spoke to residents. They compiled a list of all of the issues these residents have with the system:

Many spoke of problems with the €19.10 weekly personal allowance for adults (€9.60 per week for children) as they still face costs like prescription charges, school supplies and transport fares to meet welfare officers.

However most of the complaints related to children, with more than 700 families living in this system. More than one third of all asylum seekers living in Direct Provision are children.

In a submission from Limerick group Doras Luimní, the committee was told social services have been alerted to more than 1,500 child protection or welfare concerns about young people living in these centres over the past five years – that’s three to four times more than reported concerns about young people in the general community.

The issues investigated by child protection staff include inappropriate sexualised behaviour among children,  the inability of parents to cope and young people not being supervised. Authorities have been alerted to numerous cases of inappropriate sexual contact between adults and young people.

Children are also forced to share bathrooms with unrelated men and women.

At school, they cannot go on school trips or attend any after-school activities or classes and have no option to move on to college.

The report also pointed out children growing up in direct provision are not learning valuable life skills as they do not have a normal family routine and do not see their parents “cook, work or contribute in a meaningful way”.

Residents were, according to the report, “very firmly of the view that complaining resulted in transfer”.

Chair of the committee, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, said this system was designed and resourced to be a short-term solution only.

Whatever else can be said the one thing that is an indisputable fact, with one in five residents being in the Direct Provision System for seven or more years, is that the Direct Provision System is no longer a short term solution. This and this alone is more than sufficient to justify the statement that the system is not fit for purpose and any argument to the contrary is not credible.

He also said that as a parent he was “deeply disturbed” to think of how many children were currently living in these centres:

“How will they in the future regard our failure, right here right now to stand up and say a wrong is being committed in the name of the people who elected us and we never said STOP.”

Read: It’s clear: The direct provision system is utterly unfit for purpose>

Read: I feed my children when they’re hungry. Parents in direct provision don’t have that choice>

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