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'A stain on our society': What the presidential candidates think about Direct Provision

Some are in favour of a blanket amnesty for people living in the system for more than five years.

6 candidates From left to right/top to bottom: Peter Casey, Gavin Duffy, Joan Freeman, Seán Gallagher, Michael D Higgins and Liadh Ní Riada. Source: RollingNews.ie

AS PART OF our presidential election coverage, TheJournal.ie asked each nominee the same 12 questions so voters can see why the candidates are running and where they stand on a number of important issues.

You can read that article here

One of the topics we asked the candidates about was Direct Provision, specifically this question: Should people who have been living in Direct Provision for five years or more be given a blanket amnesty?

About 5,500 people live in Direct Provision centres around the country, with a few hundred living there for more than five years.

The conditions in the centres have been regularly criticised as unsuitable and overcrowded. It was announced in Budget 2019 that the allowance paid to adults living in the system will increase from €21.60 to €38.80 and the allowance for children will increase from €21.60 to €29.80.

The idea of granting an amnesty to asylum seekers who have lived in Ireland for a certain length of time has been discussed on numerous occasions, with former High Court Judge Bryan McMahon among those to suggest five years as a suitable time frame.

He made this suggestion in 2016 while launching a report into how well recommendations regarding Ireland’s asylum system had been implemented on foot of a report the previous year.

The amnesty, obviously, did not come to pass but the possibility of one has been raised a number of times since then. 

Here’s how the six presidential candidates responded when asked: Should people who have been living in Direct Provision for five years or more be given a blanket amnesty?

All nominees had the option of answering Yes, No or I’d rather not say, and were invited to elaborate.

Peter Casey

I would be wary of a blanket amnesty, but I would urge the Department of Justice to look at a means to better resource the system, so that people’s lives aren’t put on hold for an interminable duration.

Gavin Duffy

Yes. I believe a time limit should be put on how long one can be in Direct Provision. With a time limit, decisions will be made in advance of the expiry of the limit.

Joan Freeman

I’d rather not say. As President, I can’t interfere in policy-making that surrounds asylum seekers living in Ireland. However, I do believe that the legal system needs to speed up the asylum application process and that anyone living in direct provision should be treated considerably better than existing standards. Some of those centres are inhumane and degrading, and we shouldn’t be seen to condone them.

Seán Gallagher

Yes, once all the screening processes are completed. Direct Provision is a stain on our Government and society. If we look back in years to come I believe it could be the ‘Magdalene Laundry’ of our generation. I find it difficult to fathom that a country such as Ireland, which has more descendants living outside of the state than in it, should treat those in Direct Provision so badly. It is a shame and a scandal.

Michael D Higgins

I have visited Direct Provision Centres, most recently when I ensured that the Gaisce Presidential Awards are open to young people living in Direct Provision.

While this specific issue is, in the first instance, a matter for Government I have spoken about the recommendations of the McMahon Report and I believe that how we welcome and treat those who are displaced is an important reflection on our commitment to human rights.

Liadh Ní Riada

Yes. I believe that the situation being experienced by those in Direct Provision is unacceptable. I think in the future we will look back on how we have treated vulnerable and desperate people fleeing persecution in their home countries the way we now look at the Magdalene homes.

The position of those who have been in Direct Provision for a prolonged length of time must be regularised. It is unacceptable that children are spending their whole childhood in Direct Provision.

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Órla Ryan

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