Leading not-for-profits from the ‘Stand Together Against Direct Provision’ (STAD) coalition are calling on the government to publish and implement a new White Paper on Direct Provision without delay. They are calling for the new roadmap to set out clear timelines for ending the Direct Provision accommodation system, and for a human rights compliant alternative.
The call follows reports that Minister Roderic O’Gorman is to present a new White Paper to cabinet on ending the controversial system, two years after the first was launched, and over two decades after the system was first initiated.
The STAD coalition was set up in 2022 to ensure the government fulfilled its previous commitment to end Direct Provision by 2024. In the meantime, standards in accommodation centres have declined, delays in asylum applications have continued, and hundreds of international protection seekers have found themselves homeless. In addition to this, over 5,000 people who have received their immigration status are still living in accommodation centres, because they have not been able to access any affordable housing.
The White Paper published in 2021 committed to the building of reception and integration centres where international protection applicants would be assigned a case-worker and receive wrap-around supports, healthcare and education. The External Advisory Group and others have highlighted the pressing need to provide these centres.
John Lannon, CEO of Doras said “There is currently an over reliance on emergency accommodation provided by private contractors. In many cases people’s basic needs are not being adequately met, and the centres are not independently monitored or inspected. There is an urgent need for the building of more State-owned purpose-built accommodation.”
Fiona Hurley from Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre noted that “the recent rise in people seeking protection in Ireland should not be used as an excuse for this delay. Instead, it has heightened the urgency to replace this system with a sustainable, human rights compliant alternative that is fit for purpose in the modern era. This is particularly important as tents are being used to accommodate people, and thousands are facing removal from student accommodation.”
Fiona Crowley from Amnesty International Ireland said ‘We have been calling for the abolition of direct provision for over two decades. After 20 years of inflicting this inhumane system on some of society’s most vulnerable, there can be no more delays. A new, human rights focused system is needed with urgency to meet the needs of asylum seekers now and in the future’.
The coalition is also calling for access to early legal advice for all those applying for international protection, independent HIQA inspections of all Direct Provision and emergency accommodation centres, and renewed efforts to ensure homelessness is not a recurring issue for international protection applicants and those who have received immigration status in Ireland.
In addition, the coalition fully endorses the research published by its member organisation, Irish Refugee Council, calling for Child Benefit or an equivalent payment to be made for children in direct provision. Nick Henderson, CEO of Irish Refugee Council said “The findings are in line with what we have been seeing in our work. Standards in Direct Provision are plummeting and the cost-of-living crisis growing, leaving people in the protection process and Direct Provision particularly vulnerable. Child Benefit is described by the Department of Social Welfare as a ‘universal benefit,’ yet it is not universally paid. There is a huge opportunity for this government to ensure that this benefit or an equivalent payment becomes truly universal, by reaching those children currently excluded or introducing an equivalent payment.”