Call for new inspection regime for direct provision

Documents show residents approached an inspector just twice in 60 reports

Minister of State for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Minister of State for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

The establishment of a new inspection regime for conditions in direct provision centres is “urgently required”, according to Minister of State for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.

He said it should be “one of the top priorities” for the new working group which will review the system.

His comments followed the publication of new inspection reports by the Government’s Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) which manages the direct provision system on behalf of the Department of Justice.

Currently each of Ireland’s 34 direct provision centres are subject to three unannounced inspections per year. RIA conducts two of these. The third is carried out by fire safety firm QTS.

Several NGOs have also called for changes to the current process.

Jennifer de Wan of immigration support centre Nasc Ireland wants an “independent body such as Hiqa” to take over the inspecting process, saying the RIA and QTS inspectors were “just ticking boxes”. She also said there was a “gap” between the information in the reports and what she and others had seen.

Her comments were echoed by Sue Conlon of the Irish Refugee Council who described the process as “RIA inspecting itself”, and said that it was “inevitable” that it was never going to be “overly critical of itself”.

Ms Conlon also condemned the format of the reports which only look at the “physical environments” and don’t engage with residents or their relationships with staff.

There is space towards the end of each report for an inspector to indicate whether they have been approached by a resident. To date, out of 60 reports, there were only two cases of residents approaching inspectors. In three other centres, inspectors had spoken to residents about their concerns. There is no independent complaints mechanism for asylum seekers.

Mount Trenchard

The Irish Times

Last month The Irish Times also revealed that Judge Harding Clarke had asked then minister for justice Alan Shatter to conduct an inquiry into the centre in 2012.

The new report notes there is staining on sinks in cubicles and that a hot water tap won’t turn off in one of the rooms. The inspector says she was unable to sample the food as it was being prepared while she was there. Mount Trenchard is the only direct provision centre where the food has not been inspected.

The new set of reports also includes details of four centres that were previously unavailable online.

These are Hatch Hall and Watergate House centres in Dublin, and Birchwood and Viking House in Waterford. There is still no report online for the Georgian Court Accommodation Centre in Dublin.

There are now four centres with three reports online, 19 centres with two reports online and 10 centres with one report online.

Protests

The Department of Justice said reports on these and other centres would be published online soon. The Department also stressed the reports gave a “snapshot of a centre at a particular date and time”.

In the case of the Mount Trenchard report there were no “major issues of concern” on March 18th, 2014. The department described it as “unfortunate” that an inspection of food did not take place.

‘Dynamic process’

The direct provision system provides accommodation for just under 4,300 asylum seekers, including 1,600 children. Contractors who run the centres have been paid more than €900 million since the system was started in 2000.

The new working group which is to be chaired by ex High Court Judge Bryan McMahon is expected to submit its first report to the Government by Christmas. The terms of reference for the group are to be announced tomorrow.