Critics of direct provision ‘not living in real world’ – Coveney

Minister says direct provision centres are ‘significantly better’ than in other countries

Simon Coveney said the Government could not ‘magic’ homes for 7,000 people overnight. File photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Simon Coveney said the Government could not ‘magic’ homes for 7,000 people overnight. File photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

 

People calling for an end to the direct provision system for asylum seekers “are not living in the real world”, Simon Coveney has said.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs defended the direct provision system and said the centres are “significantly better in terms of standard than many other countries”.

“People calling for an end to direct provision as if somehow we can magic over 7,000 people out of direct provision and into their own homes overnight; that is just not living in the real world,” he told the Foreign Affairs committee.

Mr Coveney acknowledged that the Department of Justice needs to engage more with communities where they wish to place direct provision centres.

Earlier this week, the tender for a direct provision centre in a former hotel in Oughterard in Co Galway was withdrawn following weeks of local protest.

Residents flagged the size of the town, with a population of around 1,500, lack of access to medical services and transport facilities, and lack of communication from the Department of Justice about plans for the hotel.

The Department of Justice has also faced resistance to opening new direct provision centres due to arson attacks at hotels in Moville, Co Donegal, and Rooskey in Co Roscommon earlier this year.

“We need to be careful in terms of how we interact with communities that we’re asking to accommodate lots of new people.

“I think we have probably made some mistakes in that regard.

“People have legitimate concerns around how a small town or village can accommodate large numbers of new residents.

“But I think we have to get better at this because, otherwise, we are going to run out of accommodation we currently have.”

Mr Coveney said the 38 existing direct provision centres are full and there are almost 1,400 people currently being accommodated in emergency accommodation in hotels and guest houses.

“We have to address that and be upfront about it and work with communities to make that work,” he said.

Mr Coveney appealed to politicians to offer leadership within communities where direct provision centres will be placed rather than stoke up fear.

Last month, Independent TD for Galway West Noel Grealish made controversial comments about asylum seekers which emerged earlier this week.

In audio from the public meeting, Mr Grealish can be heard telling hundreds of people that African migrants arriving into Ireland were “economic migrants” who “sponge” off the system.

“A lot of the fears are based on rumour and inaccurate information, quite frankly,” he said. – PA