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'In 20 years time Direct Provision centres will be our Magdalene Laundries'

“There’s enough racism and enough anger out there, we don’t need to encourage it more.”

A DUBLIN COUNCILLOR has warned that in 20 years time, Ireland will regret the Direct Provision (DP) system as much as the Magdalene Laundries.

Francis Timmons is an Independent Councillor in the Clondalkin area, where a DP centre that houses more than 200 people is located.

I think in 20 years time, this is going to be a huge source of regret, this is going to be like the Magdalene Laundries – where we kept people against their own will … We need to learn from the past. This is taking place on our doorstep.

He said that reform of the system is badly needed and is hopeful the committee tasked with looking into this issue by Junior Minister for Equality and New Communities Aodhán Ó Riordáin will make headway in the coming months.

“He seems very genuine,” Timmons said of Ó Riordáin.

Asylum protest march in Dublin A protest against Direct Provision in 2013. Niall Carson Niall Carson

The  junior minister has previously described the fact that some people are “languishing in a Direct Provision centre for 10 years” as “absolutely intolerable”. He said that he hopes to bring in a single-procedure mechanism for DP by next Easter.

Some 4,300 asylum seekers live in 34 Direct Provision facilities nationwide.

Timmons said that he understands, to some extent, the anger people feel towards those living in DP centres, however he believes it is misplaced.

The general consensus is ‘People are living in a hotel, isn’t it great for them? -There’s so many homeless Irish.’ It does cause a lot of ill-feeling to say the least, and racism. The anger should be directed at the Government – not at other human beings who didn’t ask to be put in that position.

There’s enough racism and enough anger out there, we don’t need to encourage it more.

The Councillor said that he is very involved in trying to tackle the homeless situation currently gripping the capital and doesn’t think it’s right to house people in hotels – be they Irish or from abroad.

He noted that the “vast majority” of asylum seekers whom he has met want to work. They are legally not allowed to do so, but some engage in illegal activity – anything from delivering leaflets to engaging in prostitution – to raise money.

Adults in the centres get a weekly allowance of €19.10 while children receive €9.60.

Their children are going to school and they’re seeing new runners and laptops and phones, and if you want to provide for your kids the same as anyone else and you’re getting €19 a week, you’re going to do something to get the money. I’m not condoning it, but obviously it’s human nature to get money to provide your kids with the best … That’s what people do to survive.

Timmons and other local councillors discussed the DP system at their area committee meeting last month. The group passed a motion to ask Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald how much it costs to run the the centre in Clondalkin.

Later this month, Timmons plans to table a motion asking Fitzgerald to consider granting amnesty to all of the residents currently living in DP facilities nationally.

Senator Rónán Mullen has previously called for those living in the centres for 4 years or more to be granted automatic amnesty. Meanwhile, in September Independent TD Thomas Pringle put forward a motion in the Dáil calling on the Government to abolish the DP system.


Timmons said he has been made aware of situations where people are deported in the middle of the night in circumstances that can get “quite messy and quite violent”.

We have had children going to school very upset because they have witnessed scenes of violence as these deportations occur. These children are already traumatised and stigmatised because of where they live. They are marginalised and there is very little attempt made to integrate them with the local community.

Residents have to sign in and out of the centres, something Timmons said makes them feel like prisoners.

In DP centres families usually share a single bedroom, leaving privacy virtually impossible. Timmons said that is must be a “nightmare” for parents to raise children in the centres.

Ethnic Minorities Protests A demonstrator at a protest calling for an end to Direct Provision. Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

Rachel*, a young mother who lives in a DP centre, told us that it is very difficult to provide for her daughter.

“She always sees me crying and she says ‘Mummy, what’s wrong? Don’t worry, you’re going to get those papers one day.’

“She is different from other kids because she lives in the hostel. She can never bring her friends home. I can never afford to buy her anything she wants. We get €19 a week … she wants to go swimming, I cannot afford it.

Like any other kid she wants to do activities … all of these things that make her a normal kid, I cannot afford them. It affects her when she comes home and says ‘Mummy, oh my God, can we go to McDonald’s?’ but we can’t. Little things, sometimes it could be a new shoe … I can’t provide for my daughter.

Rachel is studying through an NGO, but often can’t afford to eat at college.

“I’m always alone in the library because I can’t afford to mingle in the canteen. I don’t eat anything, I don’t have the money.”

There are set meal times in DP facilities and if a person misses one of these, they often do not eat.

Sometimes by the time I come back the kitchen has closed, I just go to bed hungry because what’s the point? The food is already gone. I just live like that. You can cry, but there is nobody to cry to. You just suck it in and wait for tomorrow. That’s the life, nobody really cares. I’ve just got used to [not eating].

“I’m tired of being in the system for the past seven years – I need a normal life like a  normal person.”

*Rachel’s name has been changed to protect her anonymity.

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New laws will see asylum seekers spend less time in Direct Provision

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