Barnardos welcomes extension of watchdog role to direct provision

Charity says Ombudsman for Children should be able to investigate issues

Minister of State for Justice David Stanton said the department was in discussion with  the offices of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children with a view to extending their remit.

Minister of State for Justice David Stanton said the department was in discussion with the offices of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children with a view to extending their remit.

 

The charity Barnardos has welcomed a plan to expand the role of the children’s ombudsman so that it may take complaints from those in the State’s direct provision system.

Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice last month about her plans to introduce an independent complaints procedure for asylum seekers living in direct provision.

In a reply to a parliamentary question, Minister of State for Justice David Stanton said the department was in discussion with the Attorney General as well as the offices of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children with a view to extending their remit.

This would allow both bodies to receive complaints from persons residing in State-provided accommodation.

“The extension of the remit of these offices will require legislative amendment and full and detailed consideration is being given to these amendments,” Mr Stanton said.

“The type of complaints that will be accepted will be those relating to the services provided to protection applicants in their State-provided accommodation centre. Complaints relating to the international protection process itself will not fall within this arrangement.”

Optimistic

The Minister said he was optimistic that the process could be concluded speedily to allow such individuals access to the independent watchdogs at the earliest opportunity.

Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay said he welcomed the involvement of the Ombudsman in this area.

“The Ombudsman for Children should be able to receive complaints about the welfare and rights of children in direct provision and should be able to investigate them,” he said.

Ombudsman Peter Tyndall’s office examines complaints from people who feel they have been unfairly treated by certain public bodies, including government departments, local authorities, the Health Service Executive and publicly funded third-level education bodies.

Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon’s office promotes the rights and welfare of children and young people up to 18 years old. It also deals with complaints made by or on behalf of children in relation to the actions of public organisations.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has said it is specifically concerned about how children living in direct provision are treated.

In January last year, Dr Muldoon told a UN committee examining the rights of children in Ireland that children in direct provision could make a complaint to a UN committee but not to any body in Ireland.

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald had committed in principle at that stage to allowing asylum-seeking children in direct provision to have complaints examined by the watchdog.

Separately, new procedures to speed up applications for asylum came into effect this week. They are aimed at significantly cutting the length of time asylum seekers spend in direct provision centres.