Figures show 29 people have died in direct provision since 2016

Department of Justice has released numbers for first time

There were 7,089 people  living in direct provision at the end of November. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

There were 7,089 people living in direct provision at the end of November. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

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Twenty-nine people have died in the direct provision system over the past five years, according to figures released by the Department of Children for the first time.

Previously, no information was collated relating to deaths that occur among residents in the network of State- and privately operated accommodation centres, in which 7,089 people were living at the end of November.

However, Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman asked the International Protection Accommodation Service in his department to compile the information after the issue was raised by Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín.

A response to Mr Tóibín states that 29 people died while in direct provision between 2016 and the start of this month.

Mr Tóibin told The Irish Times the fact that nearly 30 people had died in direct provision over the past five years was very sad.

“ I know of a number of asylum seekers who died by suicide in recent years,” he said. “We in Aontú are glad that the Government has conceded to our request and is now recording the number of deaths in the system. It is shocking that it took so long to implement a reporting and recording process. The secrecy around the system has to end.”

Just over 1,500 applications for international protection were made in the State last year. This was a significant decrease on the 4,781 made in 2019, which has been attributed to travel restrictions and other issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Unaccompanied minors

Statistics in relation to children in direct provision were also provided to Mr Tóibín, a Meath West TD.

At the end of October, there were 1,278 international protection applications in respect of children under 18 years which were pending, of which 51 applications were in respect of unaccompanied minors.

Mr Tóibín said: “The high number of unaccompanied minors seeking international protection here is striking. In 2020 some 82 children were referred to Tusla by direct provision centres. This represents about 4 per cent of all children in direct provision.

“The number of children referred to Tusla from direct provision centres is higher than the number of referrals made by addiction counsellors.”

A Government White Paper on ending direct provision, published in February by Mr O’Gorman, envisages the closure of all direct provision accommodation centres by the end of 2024. The centres would be replaced with a system of community accommodation and supports.

Mr Tóibín said conditions in accommodation centres needed to improve while people waited for this to happen.