Plan to integrate asylum children

 

A campaign to encourage more than 500 children of asylum seekers to access local services such as libraries and sports facilities is to be launched by the Irish Refugee Council later today.

The information campaign will feature tailor-made mini-campaigns in 11 of the States accommodation centres, mainly large hostels or holiday camps such as Mosney in Co Meath, and will advise asylum seekers on what schools and other services are available locally.

It is to be launched by Senator Jillian van Turnhout the outgoing chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance.

According to Ms van Turnhout, one third of those living under “direct provision”, as the asylum support system is called, are growing up in poverty and an institutionalised environment. There are more than 2,000 children supported by direct provision, more than a quarter of whom are housed in centres targeted by the campaign.

Ms van Turnhout said such conditions can lead easily to children becoming isolated from their peers and their local community. “The children in direct provision are children first and have a right to the same support, social interaction and broader educational opportunities that an Irish child has.”

Information on local services and activities was compiled and presented in colourful posters and pamphlets to be displayed in the reception areas of the accommodation centres where parents and children would be able to see the posters anytime they passed through reception.

The Irish Refugee Council also met with youth services, families, young people and managers of the accommodation centres to measure the levels of existing engagement.

Ms van Turnhout said: “The main barrier for young people accessing mainstream youth services is the family’s financial situation. Asylum seekers receive a weekly allowance of €19.10 per adult and €9.60 per child, so it is simply not possible for children to have pocket money for trips or money for sports equipment.

The lack of transportation between direct provision centres and local towns places an obstacle to integration. Centres are often isolated and the young people are dependent on infrequent free transportation organised by the centre; these typically do not allow for young people to participate in youth clubs or afterschool activities.

“Direct provision has been shown to have a negative impact on mental and physical health so it is especially important for the children living in direct provision accommodation to have the benefit of the support of their peers and local youth services.”

Early in 2012, the Irish Refugee Council will roll out the second phase of the project by inviting youth services to an ‘information day’ at each centre to introduce their services to young residents and their parents.

The project was funded by the Community Foundation for Ireland