STAD Coalition Priorities

STAD was launched in January 2022 by a coalition of not-for-profit organisations, to make a Stand Together against Direct Provision. The founding members of STAD advocated for the Irish government to fulfil its commitment to ending Direct Provision by 2024 and replacing it with an alternative that is fully compliant with human rights standards.

The eight founding members of the Coalition are:

  • Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre
  • MASI (Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland)
  • Irish Refugee Council
  • Immigrant Council of Ireland
  • Doras
  • Cultúr
  • Crosscare Refugee Project and
  • Amnesty International Ireland

These organisations have been advocating for change to the direct provision system for over 20 years, due to the proven barriers to integration, poor mental and physical health outcomes and social exclusion resulting from this system.

The political and social climate in which the STAD coalition was launched, has changed significantly and quickly. The original goals of the STAD coalition have evolved in light of these changes.

Priority Number 1. Accommodation

In January 2022, the Coalition called for an end to Direct Provision by 2024, and for the immediate closure of emergency centres.

1.1 Ending the current system
In consideration of the deepening crises of accommodation and cost of living since 2022, it is increasingly important that a detailed timeline is provided regarding the ending of the Direct Provision system, and the establishment of a human rights compliant alternative.

On 26th February 2021, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD, published the ‘White Paper to End Direct Provision and to Establish a new International Protection Support Service’. The White Paper recommends a new accommodation model, consistent with the recommendations made in the Report of the Advisory Group on the Provision of Support including Accommodation to Persons in the International Protection process (Day Report).

The recommendations set out in the 2021 White Paper must be implemented for all new reception capacity, and a clear timeline must be provided in advance of this implementation.

There is a requirement for the building of more State-owned, purpose-built accommodation. This accommodation should be delivered through a multi-strand approach – with an emphasis on a ‘not for profit’ system.

1.2 Short-term changes
The 2021 White Paper set out that people would live in reception centres for no longer than 4 months after their initial arrival. Until the accommodation crisis has been mitigated, this may not be feasible. However, in the meantime it should be prioritised that integration supports are made available to international protection applicants. All reception centres should have an in-house case-worker to coordinate supports including access to health, education, childcare and employment activation and residents should have access to intensive English language classes. Cooking facilities will also be increasingly important considering the delayed stays in reception centres.

All accommodation must provide for protection applicants’ basic needs, and must meet the minimum standards set out in the Reception Conditions Directive (2013/33/EU).

The Coalition stands firmly against any introduction of ‘floatels’, and the use of tents, as short-term solutions to capacity issues. We believe that they are not compatible with human rights standards.

1.3 Prevention of Homelessness
Medium and long-term planning is required in order to ensure homelessness does not become a recurring issue for international protection applicants and those who have gained immigration status in Ireland.

The coalition urges the government to ensure that there is no repeat of the capacity issues which saw hundreds of newly arrived international protection applicants become street homeless for weeks or months on arrival in the State. The Coalition is now calling on the Government to prioritise safe and secure accommodation for all international protection applicants upon their arrival in Ireland.

There is a need to combat the risk of homelessness among people who have received immigration status, but cannot move out due to lack of access to affordable accommodation.

The coalition is also concerned by the Government’s practice of issuing transfer letters to those who have received status, requiring them to move to other centres around the country. This places individuals and families who have built relationships within their local communities – including with schools, voluntary organisations, medical providers and employers – at risk of being moved to a location considerably distant from these support networks, and in some cases to tented accommodation. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people who receive transfer requests are more likely to become homeless. We urge the government to move away from the practice of transferring people who have established roots in a particular community, and to increase practical supports for move-on accommodation for those with status.

Priority No. 2. Early Legal Advice

In January 2022, the STAD Coalition called for reduced processing times for international protection applications and appeals. In 2022 the International Protection Office (IPO) introduced changes to the application process, however we are concerned that these ‘efficiencies’ are being made at the cost of procedural safeguards. We are concerned that cultural mediation is not a substitute for expert early legal advice.
The Coalition is calling for access to early legal advice for all those applying for International Protection.

In light of plans to digitise the application process, safeguards need to be put in place to ensure that applicants who are not digitally literate are given the support they need to engage with the process. Adequate time should be provided to IP applicants to submit documentation and arrange appointments. It is crucial that IP applicants are not penalised for failure to submit questionnaires immediately on arrival, or before they can access legal advice.

For example, survivors of torture or Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (DSGBV) may often not disclose their experiences immediately. They will often have to wait months to receive a referral into a service where they can receive appropriate care and the medico-legal report necessary to support their international protection claim.

In addition, newly arriving international protection applicants may find themselves in extremely precarious accommodation, or be required to move frequently, and be completely unprepared to apply for legal aid, or to gather documents which are required as part of their application for international protection.

Priority No. 3. Independent HIQA Inspections

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) should be mandated to undertake independent inspections of all Direct Provision and emergency accommodation centres. The issue of independent inspections was highlighted by the STAD Coalition on its inception in 2022. Independent inspections are vital to ensuring that centres are safe and adequately resourced, and that standards are maintained across all accommodation centres.

The Government has since announced plans for HIQA to undertake inspections on all ‘permanent’ International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) centres. The STAD Coalition is calling on the Government to extend these plans to include emergency accommodation centres. As of April 2023, over 7,000 people were living in Direct Provision centres, with over 11,000 living in emergency accommodation. It is crucial that those in emergency accommodation are not left behind in the context of safe and standardised accommodation.

Priority No. 4. Social Welfare

Appropriate support must be provided for new arrivals, including improved expenses allowance and child benefits.

With cost of living increasing in Ireland, we urge the government to consider an increase in the Direct Provision Daily Expenses Allowance (DEA) payment. New research from the Vincentian MESL Centre shows that the current DEA amount is insufficient to meet the needs of people living in Direct Provision, stating that it falls far short of providing for inclusion, integration, education, participation, or their ability to live with dignity.

There is a need for Child Benefit or an equivalent payment to be made for children in direct provision. Children living in Ireland receive a €140 Child Benefit payment per month, while families on a social welfare payment receive a further €42 for each child under 12 years and €50 for each child over 12 years per week. Children in Direct Provision receive just €29.80 per week and do not receive Child Benefit, regardless of their age or circumstance.

The White Paper published in 2021 committed to introducing an International Protection Child Payment, equivalent to Child Benefit, for children in Direct Provision. We urge the government to implement this commitment.

Priority No. 5. Social Cohesion

We urge the government to take urgent action to confront false and negative stereotypes regarding international protection applicants. We are particularly concerned about the pervasive public narrative around young single men, crime, and documentation. In order to tackle such myths, it is crucial that support is offered to solidarity movements, and that intimidation of asylum seekers and refugees is condemned.

It is vital that political representatives, media outlets and law enforcement take leadership in this area and that they do not perpetuate these stereotypes. We welcome the introduction of funding for Integration Officers to Local Authorities across the State however we note that the work necessary to support social cohesion goes far beyond this. Communities need to be resourced and supported adequately when new reception centres are placed there, with clear and transparent information provided to local communities about the additional resources being made available.