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Government's plan for ending Direct Provision delayed until February 2021

A White Paper on replacing the controversial system was due to be completed and submitted to Cabinet by late December.

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Roderic O'Gorman.
Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Roderic O'Gorman.
Image: Sam Boal

THE GOVERNMENT’S PLAN for a phased end to Ireland’s Direct Provision system has been delayed until February 2021, Minister Roderic O’Gorman has confirmed. 

A White Paper on replacing the controversial system was due to be completed and submitted to Cabinet by late December. 

O’Gorman told TheJournal.ie that he has informed a number of migrant rights NGOs that the document will now not be completed until next year, despite a commitment in the Programme for Government that it would be finished by December 2020. 

“We’re close but we’re not there yet,” said O’Gorman. “So we’re looking at the second week of February for the publication of the report.”

O’Gorman said work on the report is at an “advanced stage” and said he believed it is “vital” that the report is not rushed. 

The delay comes after an Expert Advisory Group – chaired by former European Secretary General of the European Commission Dr Catherine Day -  said in October that Ireland’s current system of accommodating asylum seekers should end by 2023 and be replaced by a three-stage system of State-owned centres. 

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

It has been repeatedly criticised 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 them.

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

Dr Day said in October that the current Direct Provision system is “reactive” and that people living in the system “bear the consequences” of its failures.

O’Gorman told TheJournal.ie that a Cabinet sub-committee recently met to discuss the White Paper’s progress and said the accommodation aspect of Direct Provision is “incredibly complex”. 

“We want to get this right. We’re not just tinkering around with the Direct Provision system. What we’ll be bringing with the White Paper will be transformative,” he said. 

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