Direct Provision is a system used in Ireland since 2000 to accommodate and provide basic welfare to asylum seekers. Direct Provision centres are also known as accommodation or reception centres. They were originally designed as a short-term solution to provide accommodation for up to six months to people while they waited for an outcome on their asylum applications.
There are currently 35 centres in total in Ireland, seven are state owned and the other 28 are run for-profit by private contractors. There are more than 5,400 asylum seekers living in Direct Provision centres across Ireland, including approximately 1,500 children.
Doras Luimní’s Key Issues with Direct Provision
Doras Luimní is an NGO which was founded in 2000 in response to the establishment of Direct Provision. They provide a free and confidential advice and legal information service on a range of immigration-related issues. Their website highlights the key issues with Direct Provision as:
- The average length of stay in Direct Provision is more than two years, with many having spent up to 10 years living in these conditions;
- Three meals are provided at set times each day – residents have no facilities to cook for themselves
- Residents live in shared accommodation, with some adults sharing rooms with up to eight people of different backgrounds and nationalities.
- The weekly allowance provided to adults and children is insuffcient and does not meet people’s basic needs.
- Until February 2018, asylum seekers had no right to work in Ireland – unlike most EU member states. Currently the right to work is restricted to people who have been waiting at least nine months on a first instance decision
- The standards of accommodation and living conditions vary widely from centre to centre – however, efforts are currently being made to develop national standards for Direct Provision centres
- The majority of Direct Provision centres are managed by private contractors on a for-profit basis, on behalf of the State.
- Physical and mental health issues among residents are very common. Asylum seekers are five times more likely to experience mental health issues and psychiatric conditions.
- Children have been born and raised living in these conditions, the long-term developmental effects of which are still unknown
- Asylum seekers are not allowed to access third-level education or further training, except in very limited circumstances
The Working Group on the Protection Process and Direct Provision
The Working Group on the Protection Process and Direct Provision was established in October 2014 to make recommendations on both the protection process and Direct Provision. The Protection Process is the process whereby asylum seekers and refugees apply for international protect when they come to live in Ireland. After nine months of working with asylum seekers, service providers and stakeholders the group published their report known as the McMahon Report. The report contained 173 recommendations for reform of the protection process including Direct Provision and supports to asylum seekers.
Implementation of the McMahon Report recommendations
In December 2017 NASC, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre said that the Government had failed to start or implement nearly half of the recommendations which has been made in the McMahon report. Previously, in July of 2017 the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said that there had been a “radical improvement” in the length of time people spend in the direct-provision system and said 98 per cent of the recommendations made the McMahon report had been implemented or were in progress. Nasc in response issued a report which accused the Department of Justice of only implementing 51% of the recommendations.
Deaths at Direct Provision Centres
In 2017 the Irish Catholic published figures that 44 people had died in Direct Provision between 2007 and 2017, including three stillborn babies and one “neonatal death”. The publication had received the information in response to a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Justice. Two people were recorded to have died as a result of suicide and one resident was stabbed to death. The “suspected cause of death” recorded for over one third of the people in Direct Provision was unknown.
Sylva, a transgender woman who went only by her first name, died on Thursday the 2nd of August at the Direct Provision Centre she had been living in Galway. Sylva had been living in an all-male direct provision centre since early last year and had come out as a transgender woman while living in Ireland. Sylva’s death has raised discussion in the media and on social media about the inadequacies of Direct Provision and more specifically the services available to and treatment of LGBTI+ residents at the centres.
Living in Direct Provision as a LGBTI+ person
Issues were highlighted in the McMahon Report that are faced by LGBTI+ asylum seekers in Direct Provision. These issues included a lack of individual lockers for the storage of personal items including papers relating to their claim which they said was a cause of “real anxiety”. Safety and isolation were also highlighted as serious issues to LGBTI+ asylum seekers, especially in cases where they had to share bedrooms and bathrooms. They also reported serious issues of concern around disclosure of their sexual orientation and the response to those disclosures.
LGBTI+ recommendations in the McMahon review
In response to the concerns of LGBTI+ residents in Direct Provision the McMahon Report recommended that:
- That information, posters, talks and confidential contact details be provided in every centre and kept up to date to target vulnerable groups and promote dignity.
- That DP centres should consider training staff in LGBTI+ issues.
- Where possible that a trained member of staff should be identified and their contact details given to deal with LGBTI+ issues.
- That appropriate services are extended to members of the LGBTI+ community in the system.
- That Designated Persons in the Community Welfare Service should exercise discretion in in administering the Exceptional Needs Payment scheme to support LGBTI+ people in the system to access appropriate supports and services.
- That information by way of posters, pamphlets, contact numbers and visits by relevant NGOs, Garda LGBTI+ Liaison Officers, and Sexual Health Promotion Offices should be available in all centres
Living in Direct Provision as a young person
If you are aged 16 to 25, have lived or are currently living in Direct Provision and would like to share your experience with us please email [email protected] to become a content contributor.
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