Children in direct provision complain about food, overcrowding
Taoiseach defends direct provision but admits current system ‘doesn’t work’
Aasylum seekers, refugees and human rights supporters marching to the Department of Justice as part of a national day of action to end direct provision. File photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times
Children living in the direct provision system for asylum seekers have complained about issues such as food, overcrowding and access to transport since a process was created for them earlier this year.
People living in the State’s 33 direct provision centres were given the right to raise grievances with the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children in cases where they are not getting the services to which they are entitled.
Children’s Ombudsman Dr Niall Muldoon told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that he had since received 13 complaints from children in direct provision.
“There are 1,200 children in direct provision. Since April we have gone to 10 centres and we have plans to visit all 26 centres that have children,” he said.
The direct provision system was established in April 2000 and sees asylum seekers accommodated in privately-operated centres . Meals are provided and asylum seekers are entitled to €19.10 per adult per week, with a lower rate for children. Eight contractors operating the network of direct provision centres were paid a total of €43.5 million last year.
Among the issues raised by the children were access to food from their own country, overcrowding, access to leisure facilities and access to transport to medical appointments.
These issues had previously been raised by organisations working with people in direct provision, said Dr Muldoon, who added that they were not a surprise.
He said he was pleased that the children, or their representatives, had felt confident to come forward to raise the issues.
“This shows a level of trust. These people have undergone so many difficult journeys to get here. Staying in direct provision, waiting for someone to make decisions is daunting. They are fearful that making a complaint of any kind might affect their refugee status.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar defended the direct provision system for asylum seekers but admitted the current system “doesn’t work”.
Speaking in Dublin on Tuesday, he welcomed Dr Muldoon’s report and said the Government would act on them as best it could.
“Direct provision is regulated. I’ve heard people compare it to some of the things that happened in Ireland in the past. This is regulated and it is inspected already,” he said.
“For the first time in maybe 10 years we increased the weekly allowance paid to people in direct provision, both children and adults, and that was one of the last decisions I made as Minister for Social Protection.”
He said a “key thing” that needed to be done was to ensure nobody spent too long in direct provision.
“Direct provision was only ever intended to be a temporary stay if you like, while somebody has their application to stay in the country decided on.”
He said a new international protection act would be fully implemented, “because at the moment we’ve a system that doesn’t work”.
People were making multiple applications and were waiting years for a decision as to whether they had to leave the country or were allowed to stay, he said.
“If we fully implement the international protection act those decisions will be reached much more quickly and therefore people won’t spend long periods of time in direct provision.”
Dr Muldoon said that his office will provide workshops to children in direct provision to educate them on their rights so they will know what they are entitled to.
Referring to a recent study by Trinity College on the fears expressed by children in direct provision, he said that the children had spoken very openly and he had no reason to believe the situation had changed since the study was undertaken two years ago.
“They just want to be normal. They want the right to leave direct provision and live a normal life.”
Dr Muldoon added that the office of the Children’s Ombudsman is taking action and can look at individual cases as well as systemic issues.