Long stays in direct provision lead to dependency, says UNHCR

Most asylum seekers have spent four years or more in State-funded accommodation units

Sophie Magennis, UNHCR Ireland’s head of office, called for the length of time asylum seekers spend awaiting decisions on their asylum applications to be reduced, in order to limit the negative effects highlighted in the ‘Towards a New Beginning’ report. Photograph: Eric Luke

Sophie Magennis, UNHCR Ireland’s head of office, called for the length of time asylum seekers spend awaiting decisions on their asylum applications to be reduced, in order to limit the negative effects highlighted in the ‘Towards a New Beginning’ report. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

The length of time asylum seekers spend in State-funded accommodation is leading to dependency and disempowerment among some of those seeking protection here, the UN’s refugee agency has warned.

More than 4,000 asylum seekers live in hostels, hotels and other communal accommodation known as the direct provision system.

It was intended to provide accommodation for six months, but most residents have spent four years or more waiting for their status to be resolved. Some have spent up to a decade in the system.

A UNHCR study, Towards a New Beginning, which consulted with 71 refugees living here, has found that lack of access to work, education and integration supports over the course of a number of years can be difficult to repair and may hinder prospects of integration.

“It is clear from this report’s findings that the length of time refugees spend awaiting final decisions in respect of their asylum applications should be reduced in order to limit the negative effects of such waiting periods,” said Sophie Magennis, UNHCR Ireland’s head of office.

Record number

“War, conflict and human rights abuses have forced a record number of people to flee to other countries as refugees around the world. We must ensure that when some of those people arrive in Ireland, their applications are dealt with in a reasonable time frame,” she said.

The report’s findings come as authorities continue to review the operation of the direct provision system. This followed a pledge last year by Minister of State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin – and subsequently, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald – to review the system, which he described as “intolerable”.

The 11-member working group, chaired by Mr Justice Bryan MacMahon and which includes representatives from non-governmental organisations and the Department of Justice, is due to finalise a report to Government shortly.

Tensions have surfaced in some direct provision centres over recent months due to frustration at issues, such as living conditions and length of stay in institutional settings that were designed to be a short-term solution.