Following government announcements last week, the STAD Coalition has expressed grave concern regarding plans for Ireland to join the EU Asylum and Migration Pact. The Coalition has pointed to the need for political leadership in the run-up to elections in particular, and for accommodation issues to be discussed and solved without scapegoating those seeking asylum.

The Pact’s inclusion of border procedures – intended to apply to people coming from ‘safe countries’ or without identity documents –  will likely cause de facto detention, including of children. John Lannon, CEO of Doras in Limerick, stressed the need to veer away from any normalisation of detention centres: “The potential use of detention for asylum seekers would mark a new low in Ireland’s history of human rights protection. It should only ever be used as a measure of last resort and in strict accordance with international law.”  

The Coalition is also concerned by the proposal of centre-right EU political group, the European People’s Party (EPP) to outsource the processing of asylum applications to different countries, and the potential that this could be adopted. The Coalition noted that externalising asylum applications would risk endangering the safety of protection applicants and essentially undermine the principle of international protection. 

Regarding the Government’s new Accommodation Strategy for International Protection Applicants, the Coalition welcomed the commitment to the introduction of child benefit aligned payments and specific accommodation for vulnerable groups, as initially outlined in the Catherine Day Report and the White Paper on Ending Direct Provision.  However, the Coalition is deeply concerned regarding the deterioration of standards in accommodation of international protection applicants and reports of violence and intimidation by private security companies operating in this sector. The majority of international protection applicants are living in unregulated and unmonitored accommodation settings that are not subject to National Standards or monitoring by HIQA.

The Coalition is alarmed that the government could not guarantee that women and families would not be facing homelessness in the coming months. Fiona Hurley, CEO of Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre noted the government’s “lack of tangible, detailed plans for housing, and vagueness over budgetary commitment. This is really worrying, particularly with ongoing homelessness among men arriving in Ireland and the increasing risk for women and families. While the strategy identifies short-term actions such as the conversion of office units, the construction of prefab accommodation on state land, and purchase of units, there’s no evidence that any of that will actually lead to housing being provided in the coming months.”