Number stuck in direct provision due to housing scarcity soars

Those unable to exit State centres despite being granted asylum rises to 11% of residents

Group protesting over direct provision system: The number unable to exit the State’s 34 centres has risen by almost 50 per cent in the past 16 months. Photograph: David Sleator

Group protesting over direct provision system: The number unable to exit the State’s 34 centres has risen by almost 50 per cent in the past 16 months. Photograph: David Sleator

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Almost 600 people who have been granted asylum in Ireland remain in direct provision centres because they have been unable to find suitable or affordable accommodation outside the system.

Figures provided by the Department of Justice show the number of people unable to exit the system, a network of 34 State-funded centres in 17 counties, has increased by almost 50 per cent in the past 16 months to 591.

The figure represents some 11 per cent of the total number of 5,442 people in direct provision centres, which has increased by 22 per cent since March of last year.

The number of people seeking asylum in the first quarter of this year increased by 62 per cent when compared to the corresponding period last year. It was confirmed the budget for direct provision accommodation would increase to €66 million this year.

The direct provision system was established almost 20 years ago and sees asylum seekers accommodated in privately run centres, the operators of which were paid €50.59 million (including VAT) last year. People in the system are entitled to a weekly allowance of €21.60 and the Government recently moved to lessen restrictions that prevented asylum seekers from taking up jobs.

‘Accessing accommodation’

In a written Dáil reply to Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall on the issue of people with asylum remaining within direct provision, Minister for State at the Department of Justice David Stanton said: “I am aware that accessing accommodation is an issue for residents in accommodation centres given the current housing market.

“My department has funded a number of projects with NGOs such as the Jesuit Refugee Service and DePaul to assist those persons who are resident in accommodation centres who have been granted a form of status to access their own housing. Discussions are also ongoing with a number of approved housing bodies to provide assistance nationwide,” he said.

Caroline Reid, of the Irish Refugee Council, said the organisation had been working with people seeking to leave direct provision.

“Aside from the challenges of moving on to independent living after protracted periods spent in direct provision and navigating new and unfamiliar processes, the biggest issue people face is finding landlords or letting agents that are willing to accept housing assistance payments,” she said.

“There are also evident cases of discrimination against people in receipt of social welfare payments, an issue that affects a much broader group of people in Irish society.”

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