Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Minister of State for Equality, New Communities and Culture said reform of the direct provision system is a “top priority” for him.
“I won’t stand over a system of people living in limbo for years on end. It’s not acceptable that children have to grow up in direct provision centres,” he said.
Mr Ó Ríordáin said he visited a direct provision centre at Hatch Hall in Dublin which was designed to house people for short periods but said that many people had been living there for years.
“I visited a direct provision facility at Hatch Hall recently and the experience of the people living there would be tolerable to a degree if you were living there for weeks and months but not for years,”he said.
Mr Ó Ríordáin said the direct provision system is “not humane” and that it has to be reformed.
“It cost €65 million last year and it will cost €51 million next year; so it’s not cheap,” he said.
Senator and children’s rights activist Jillian Van Turnhout has said an independent complaints mechanism for those living in direct provision needs to be set up.
“Direct provision centres should be inspected by HIQA like other childcare facilities. I’m concerned about the State hiding behind the terms that these children are not in the care of the State but cared for by the State ,” she said.
Ms Van Turnhout said she had visited a direct provision centre in Athlone and said she “wouldn’t last a week there.”
“The systematic stripping of the individual’s and the family’s dignity is reprehensible for the Irish State,” she said.
Normal existence denied
The direct provision system of care for asylum seekers has been criticised for imposing isolation, boredom and a lack of control over meals for those placed in centres.
Ms Van Turnhout said children growing up in direct provision are denied a normal existence. “If a child is invited to a birthday party, they probably can’t afford to buy a present or they can’t invite friends over.”
Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the conditions in which asylum seekers experience in direct provision are “detrimental to their mental health and well being.”
“I believe that direct provision is a wholly inadequate response to the needs of people who are seeking asylum in our country.
“It has created an isolated community in our midst all around the country who are not afforded basic needs,” he said.