Government urged to end direct provision system for asylum seekers

Alternative proposal could save money and improve standards, says refugee body

Asylum seeker accommodation in Athlone, Co Westmeath. Photograph: Rory O’Neill

Asylum seeker accommodation in Athlone, Co Westmeath. Photograph: Rory O’Neill


The Irish Refugee Council has called on the Government to reform the direct provision system for asylum seekers by replacing hostel-type accommodation with private rented units.

The council’s call comes at a time of rising concern over standards in direct provision centres, which provide accommodation for more than 4,600 asylum seekers.

Inspection reports published in yesterday’s IrishTimes show evidence of overcrowding, poor fire safety practices and lapses in hygiene levels across several centres.

Saving of €9 million
The council argues reforms to the direct provision system could save almost €9 million by moving asylum seekers into private rental accommodation after a six-month period.

This system, it says, would also include a means test to prevent any individuals who have the means to provide for themselves from accessing this welfare support.

Sue Conlan, the council’s chief executive, said direct provision was not working and was forcing people to be dependent on the State, with no control over their lives and no opportunity to work or make significant decisions for themselves.

“At the end of this, they are deskilled and demotivated and then face an enormous challenge to integrate and become self-sufficient after so many years of dependency and social exclusion,” she said.

While in opposition in 2010, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter expressed dissatisfaction with direct provision and said it would be subject to a comprehensive review within months if Fine Gael was elected to Government.

Mr Shatter was unavailable for comment yesterday. However, he recently defended the system during an Oireachtas debate on the issue.

“The direct provision system provides a roof over the heads of those seeking asylum or those who have been refused asylum and make other applications for leave to remain in the country,” he told the Dáil in June.

“As my predecessors discovered, in the context of the expenditure involved, it is the most economical way of providing for those who are effectively in the country illegally but who are seeking permission to stay for a variety of reasons.”

While he personally did not regard it as the “most ideal system”, he said: “In the current economic climate I do not see the current direct provision arrangements changing.”