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Direct Provision should end by 2023 with amnesty offered in 2021 for some - Day report

A report drawn up by former Secretary General of the European Commission Dr Catherine Day has made a number of sweeping recommendations.

Image: Eamonn Farrell

ASYLUM SEEKERS LIVING in Direct Provision for more than two years by the end of 2020 should be allowed remain in Ireland for five years, a report drawn up by former Secretary General of the European Commission Dr Catherine Day has said. 

An Advisory Group, chaired by Dr Day, has made a number of sweeping recommendations in its report, which is due to be published today, including a once-off grant to people who have lived in the current system for more than two years. It also recommends increasing access to the labour market. 

Direct Provision was set up in 1999 in response to a sharp increase in the number of people seeking asylum in Ireland.

The system has been repeatedly criticised by migrant rights groups due to the length of time people remain in centres while their asylum applications or appeals are processed, the conditions of centres as well as the psychological effects on those living in these centres. 

Over €1 billion has been paid to private contractors and businesses since the system was established. 

It’s understood the report recommends that any person who has been living in Direct Provision for more than two years be granted leave-to-remain for a period of five years – pending security vetting.

There should be an option to renew this under a once-off case-processing approach which should be put in place by January in order to clear the current backlog of asylum applications. 

Leave-to-remain is granted to people who have been refused refugee or subsidiary protection but are not deported for humanitarian or other reasons. 

Day’s report was commissioned by former Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. The Advisory Group first convened in November 2019 and presented its findings to Government in recent days. 

The current system of accommodating asylum seekers should be ended and replaced by a three-stage system of State-run accommodation by mid-2023, the report recommends. 

The new reception system outlined in the Advisory Group’s report would see accommodation provided to people at State-owned centres for three months, according to the report. 

On-site services should also be available at this stage to assist applicants in accessing services such as health and social welfare. 

After three months at a reception centre, applicants should be helped to move to own-door accommodation through a housing allowance model.

A payment similar to the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) would also be made available as well as a weekly allowance under this new system. It’s understood Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has been briefed on the report, which calls for a mix of solutions to accommodate protection applicants. 

If a person receives International Protection or permission to remain in Ireland they should be provided with support for up to 18 months afterwards, according to the report. 

Application process

Dr Day’s report was drawn up in consultation with a number of NGOs, including Nasc, the Irish Refugee Council and Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) as well as current and retired senior civil servants. 

The report calls for a “whole-of-government” response to replacing Direct Provision.

Dr Day previously described the current Direct Provision system as “unsatisfactory” and “largely reactive”. 

8637 IIEA European Conference (1) Dr Catherine Day pictured earlier this year. Source: Leah Farrell

In addition, “binding targets” for different stages of the protection process should be introduced – to come into effect from 2023 – including a six-month deadline for the International Protection Office to make a first instance decision and a six-month deadline for the International Protection Appeals Tribunal to make a decision on an appeal.

This should be supported by an increase in resources for the Legal Aid Board to ensure that protection applicants have access to legal advice and support from when they arrive in Ireland, it’s understood. 

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The report also makes provision for increasing access to the labour market by making permission to work available within 3 months of lodging an application for protection.

The report calls for the new system to be in place by mid-2023.

The report, which is not legally-binding, will now inform the Government’s White Paper for replacing the controversial system of accommodating asylum seekers in Ireland, which is due to be published by January. 

Responsibility for administering Direct Provision accommodation transferred last week from the Department of Justice & Equality to the Department of Children & Youth Affairs, as part of an agreement under the Programme For Government. 

The report and its recommendations will now be considered by a committee overseeing the drafting of the White Paper. 

The Advisory Group’s report also makes a number of short-term recommendations while the current Direct Provision system remains in place. 

Vulnerability assessments should be introduced as soon as possible and be offered to asylum seekers within 30 days of their arrival by 2023.  

In addition, it is recommended that the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) carry out inspections of Direct Provision centres around the country. 

Inspections have previously been carried by the Department of Justice & Equality and private contractor QTS. 

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