Report calls for replacement or overhaul of direct provision system

Recommendations include increasing allowances and shorter waiting period for work

The committee also examined the lives of children inside the system and has called for a new allowance for parents. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The committee also examined the lives of children inside the system and has called for a new allowance for parents. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The direct provision system in Ireland is “flawed” and should either be replaced or subjected to a “root-and-branch review”, an unpublished Oireachtas report has concluded.

The Oireachtas Committee on Justice has compiled a lengthy report into direct provision, arguing that the system does not respect the rights to privacy and human dignity of those placed in centres around the country.

A copy of the draft report, seen by The Irish Times, recommends that a legal requirement be placed on local authorities to develop integration strategies for asylum seekers, that a new allowance be introduced for parents in the system, that a new oversight body be established for inspections, and that consideration be given to removing the nine-month waiting period for work.

It will call on the Government to “move away” from the current reliance on commercial companies to provide accommodation and has raised concerns about the “lack of transparency in relation to the finances and activities of private commercial companies and individuals engaged in providing accommodation and services”.

Oversight body

The report also calls for the establishment of an inspectorate or oversight body, wholly independent of the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) and the Department of Justice.

“There is a need for regular, unannounced monitoring and inspections of direct provision centres, possibly by extending the remit of the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) into this area.”

Private, non-shared rooms should be designated to trafficked women who have been sexually abused

The Department of Justice is currently searching for new accommodation centres for asylum seekers through eight regional tenders around the country.

The committee says it is “essential” that protocols be established and for consultation with local communities, together with public information initiatives, “to address misconceptions that exist in relation to the international protection system and the applicants”.

Priority should be given to designating private, non-shared rooms to trafficked women who have been sexually abused, the report says.

“In recognition of the particularly acute trauma experienced by victims of human trafficking, gender-specific accommodation, with additional appropriate and tailored supports and services, must be provided for those identified as victims of trafficking and sexual abuse.”

‘Extensive training’

It says “extensive training” should be provided to all personnel working within the direct provision system, to include “specialised training in dealing with the effects of trauma, sexual abuse and domestic violence, so as to allow for the continual assessment and detection of mental health issues amongst individuals living within the system”.

Asylum seekers are now legally entitled to apply for work, but international protection applicants who are awaiting first-instance decisions may only apply for access to the labour market after nine months in the system.

It found that vulnerability assessments for children should be undertaken by qualified professionals

The justice committee says it “strongly believes this waiting period should be significantly reduced, and that consideration ought to be given to removing it entirely”.

The committee also examined the lives of children inside the system and has called for a new allowance for parents.

It found that vulnerability assessments for children should be undertaken by qualified professionals. It also finds that playrooms are often locked due to lack of adequate supervision, and that high costs associated with school is putting strain on parents in the system.

‘Additional allowance’

“It is clear that, even with the increase in the daily expenses allowance, it is still far from adequate to meet the costs associated with schoolgoing children, and an additional allowance ought to be provided to such parents.”

It further finds that children who arrive in Ireland unaccompanied are “particularly vulnerable” and should not be transferred automatically to the direct provision system on reaching the age of 18.

“So-called ‘aged-out minors’ should remain under the responsibility of Tusla, retaining their supports, until their applications for asylum have reached a conclusion.”

The committee has said it is also “greatly concerned” by evidence that the use of emergency accommodation such as hotels and guest houses, which was intended as a stop-gap measure, risks “becoming entrenched within the system”.

The report is due to be published next month.