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Ombudsman: Our treatment of asylum seekers is unacceptable

Over a third of people in Direct Provision refuges have been there for more than five years.

Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly at the launch of the Jesuit's Summer 2013 Studies in Dublin today.
Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly at the launch of the Jesuit's Summer 2013 Studies in Dublin today.
Image: Irish Jesuits via Flickr

OMBUDSMAN EMILY O’REILLY has criticised Ireland’s treatment of asylum seekers, describing the decision-making process in the country as “fragmented, very slow and highly inefficient”.

In the Summer 2013 edition of the Jesuit quarterly studies, launched today, O’Reilly spoke out against the ‘Direct Provision’ accommodation arrangements for asylum seekers with the government in 2000 affirming that people would stay in these refuges no longer than six months.

She said the reality is that 66 per cent of asylum seekers have been in these hostel-type facilities for more than three years and 36 per cent have been there for more than five years.

In her article, she made reference to a recent investigation into a complaint concerning an African woman whose Supplementary Welfare Allowance was delayed by a year after she moved out of a refuge. She had left the refuge because of the deteriorating mental health of one of her daughters, who later attempted suicide and was hospitalised.

O’Reilly said this investigation prompted her to look more generally at our arrangements for dealing with asylum seekers and that she was struck by the “almost universal acceptance that these arrangements are damaging to the health, welfare and life-chances of those who must endure them”.

I wondered also whether we are not just a little hypocritical in seeking to have the status of perhaps 50,000 ‘undocumented’ Irish citizens, living and working illegally in the US, regularised, while at the same time adopting measures which make it quite uninviting to seek asylum in Ireland.

The Ombudsman said that we need to “urgently” reform our arrangements as the failure to improve our processes has resulted in “serious and enduring hardship”.

“We have known for a decade and more that our treatment of asylum seekers is unacceptable and we have failed, mostly, to do anything about it”, she said.

Read: HSE had ‘no proper basis’ to refuse payment for woman and suicidal daughter>
Read: Next stop Strasbourg: Emily O’Reilly wins vote to become new EU Ombudsman>

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