Tensions rise in direct provision centres as asylum claims hit 10-year high

Overcrowding in centres is now so ‘acute’ that maintenance work cannot be carried out

The “buffer” between the direct provision occupancy rates and the total number of beds available “has been decreasing for three years”. Photograph: Getty Images

Overcrowding in direct provision centres is now so “acute” that maintenance work cannot be carried out even as the centres are being asked to create more bed spaces “without sacrificing standards”, according to internal briefings prepared within the Department of Justice.

They also warns of rising tensions “between and among” residents and staff at the centres, saying the pressure staff are now enduring “should not be underestimated”.

While the system traditionally had “between 300 and 500” spare beds available, this was now down to just “five family rooms and a few single-person spaces”.

This accommodation crisis was unfolding at a time when Brexit, Ireland's recovering economy and new employment rights for asylum seekers in the Republic were very likely adding to an increase in the number of asylum seekers, says the briefing material obtained by The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act.


The chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council, Nick Henderson, said the pressure now on the accommodation system could not be blamed on what he said were modest increases in asylum seeker numbers of late.

Occupancy rates

The “buffer” between the occupancy rates in the system and the total number of beds available “has been decreasing for three years, and was entirely foreseeable”.

He said it would be incorrect and wrong to blame asylum seekers for what was an accommodation crisis brought about by years of poor planning.

He added the Republic should be well able to provide accommodation and appropriate services for newly-arrived asylum seekers, which was a legal requirement after the State signed up to an EU directive on reception conditions in July 2018.

The Department of Justice documentation says illegal immigrants in Britain, "fearing a tightening of UK immigration laws and enforcement after Brexit", may come to Ireland and claim asylum.

Other displaced people may also choose to come to Ireland rather than Britain to claim asylum for the same reason.

The “information note on asylum trends” says if the level of new asylum claims remains high, Ireland will need “to examine further” the decision last year to allow asylum seekers to work.

Since the briefing material was written last September, the number of asylum seekers coming to Ireland has remained high and the pressure on accommodation has intensified

New claims

Last year there were 3,673 new claims for asylum made in the Republic, the highest level since 2008.

When the relocation from Greece to Ireland of groups of asylum seekers are stripped out of the figures for the last two years, the number of asylum seekers coming to Ireland increased by 42 per cent last year.

Because of the housing crisis in the Republic, the Reception and Integration Agency, which is responsible for direct provision accommodation, has been struggling of late.

New accommodation is now much harder to find, and about 700 people whose asylum claims were successful are still living in direction provision because alternative accommodation is not available. Recent requests for additional accommodation enjoyed very limited success.

Efforts to bring on stream more direct provision places have been undermined of late by suspected arson attacks at centres being readied in Moville, Co Donegal, and Roosky, Co Roscommon.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times