Most people agree that Direct Provision (DP) is an inhumane system. It has been termed a “severe violation of human rights” by Emily Hogan from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC). In many ways, the DP system is reminiscent of other shameful episodes in Irish history including Catholic industrial schools, Magdalene laundries, and mother and baby homes. 

Initially established as an interim system that would accommodate people for no more than 6 months, DP has morphed into a system in which people can become trapped for years. Latest figures show that 157 people have spent more than seven years in the system while waiting for their applications to be processed. Currently, there are about 6000 people living in the 39 DP centres across Ireland. Many still don’t have access to their own cooking facilities. People in DP live their lives in limbo, not knowing how long they will be in the system for. According to the Irish Refugee Council (IRC), this often leads to stress and mental health issues.   

DP controls central aspects of people’s lives including their ability to work and study. Until recently, asylum seekers were not allowed to work at all, although this blanket ban was declared unconstitutional last year. However, only about 15% of eligible adults have started work since then. This is because numerous restrictions make the right to work for asylum seekers more of a fantasy than a reality – including their inability to get a driver’s licence. 

Now, DP is making headlines again due to protests over plans to open a new DP centre in the village of Oughterard in County Galway. The recent burial of a transgender woman – Sylva Tukula – in an unmarked grave, without any of her loved ones present, following her death in an all-male centre in Galway city also ignited public fury – and drew attention to the failings of the system. 

IHREC has found that women within the DP system are an extremely vulnerable group and that the system negatively impacts on a wide range of women’s rights. This covers reports of harassment, including verbal abuse and proposition. AkiDwA Ireland also discussed the various human rights abuses women face in a recent submission to the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality. Other women’s rights issues have recently come to light, including women in DP being left without access to sanitary products, and access to proper abortion services due to the remote location of centres. Raising children in the centres also presents many challenges.

More generally, the for-profit nature of Ireland’s DP system has been widely condemned by the human rights community. The IRC has outlined how the accommodation of asylum seekers in remote centres without access to facilities and services exacerbates their marginalisation. It recommended centres should be in locations with easy access to educational, medical, transport, and other services. But these recommendations are largely ignored and communities which house centres are generally not consulted in advance – something which would appear a prerequisite to better integrating asylum seekers into communities. 

Clearly it is time for this system to have a radical overhaul. 

 

Organisations like MASI (the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland) have been working tirelessly to end DP for many years now – and they need our support.  If you want to learn how to help: https://spunout.ie/life/article/how-can-i-help-end-direct-provision1.

 

Photo by Braca Karic on Wikimedia Commons 

 

 

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