Direct provision system poses risk of sexual violence – report

Third of asylum-seekers or refugees presenting to rape crisis centres in 2012 were minors at time of assault

The Irish direct provision system poses a risk of sexual violence to individuals living in the system, according to the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI).

A report published yesterday into sexual violence experienced by asylum-seekers and refugees found the direct provision system required urgent reform. It found direct provision not only exacerbates the trauma for survivors but also leaves individuals living in the system vulnerable to sexual violence.

Acting director of the RCNI Clíona Saidléar said most of the attacks had occurred in the victim's country of origin, with the remainder being perpetrated in transit or in Ireland.

She said pointed to a number of concerns about sexual exploitation being raised in direct provision hostels. These included women and minors being approached by pimps for the purposes of prostitution, children being groomed by men in the hostels and in the community and cases of sexual harassment and propositioning.


“We have identified across the country the direct provision system as exacerbating vulnerabilities and in fact being a risk in terms of sexual violence,” Ms Saidléar said.

In its recommendations, the report calls for the reform of the direct provision system with Ms Saidléar noting that - “at the very least” - it had to be made “safe and secure” to protect vulnerable individuals.

The study presents findings on the experience of 61 asylum-seeker and refugee survivors of sexual violence who availed of services provided by the RCNI in 2012.

In that period the 61 individuals - 54 asylum-seekers and seven refugees - attended rape crisis centres in Ireland having experienced 69 incidents of sexual violence between them. Over 90 per cent of these incidents involved rape.

Half of the victims were aged between 18 and 30 when the sexual violence occurred.

Almost one in three were minors at the time the sexual violence took place and two were under the age of 13 at the time they were abused. The majority of those presenting were African.

One in seven of the female victims who experienced sexual violence became pregnant as a result of being raped, some 67 per cent of whom are parenting those children, many of whom now live in the Irish direct provision system.

More than half of victims experienced sexual violence at the hands of multiple perpetrators, with one in 10 incidents involving five or more perpetrators.

Almost half of the victims of sexual violence were assaulted by security forces.

RCNI chairwoman Anne Scully said many survivors of sexual violence seeking asylum in Ireland - some of whom had experienced multiple and prolonged violence - had not found a safe haven here.

These victims, Ms Scully said, were among “the most marginalised” in our country. She also highlighted the finding that counselling to a third of those who sought help ended because the individual was moved to a different direct provision centre.

Ms Scully also raised concerns that the number of referrals from refugees and asylum had fallen in 2013 and 2014, adding that cutbacks to a range of service providers had impacted on the number of referals being brought to the RCNI’s attention.

Launching the report, former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness noted that in 46 per cent of cases the sexual violence had been suffered at the hands of security forces in the victim’s country of origin, meaning they often did not trust authority.

This, she said, made the work of the RCNI even more vital, calling for funding cutbacks to be restored to support the survivors of sexual violence.