Ombudsman offices to take complaints about direct provision

Asylum seekers given right to take issues about State services and accommodation to two watchdogs

(From left) Minister of State David Stanton, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon and Ombudsman Peter Tyndall. Photograph: Bryan Brophy

(From left) Minister of State David Stanton, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon and Ombudsman Peter Tyndall. Photograph: Bryan Brophy

 

Asylum seekers in the State’s 33 direct provision centres will now be able to make complaints to the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children if they are not getting the services to which they are entitled.

Both watchdogs welcomed the change, which takes effect from Monday, saying they had long called for it and it would provide equal access to complaints procedures for people in direct provision.

Until now residents in direct provision centres could complain to the Reception and Integration Agency, a body of the Department of Justice and Equality.

The changes mean residents who have raised an issue with the manager of the accommodation centre, and the agency, and who are not satisfied with the outcome, will be able to make a complaint to one of the two offices.

Complaints they may deal with include standards of accommodation, meals, cleaning and facilities.

Residents in direct provision, like everyone else in the State, may also now raise issues relating to the actions of public bodies including schools, health services, social work services, local authorities, government departments and agencies.

Neither office will, however, be able to examine decisions about asylum, visa, citizenship or residency.

Ombudsman Peter Tyndall said the direct provision system had “rightly been criticised both nationally and internationally”.

“While the government will shortly implement a more streamlined system for asylum applications those still living in direct provision accommodation should receive all the services to which they are entitled,” he said.

“Introducing an independent complaints process will help to ensure that those services are delivered to the highest standard possible.”

Mr Tyndall said his staff had already met with residents across the country and they very much welcomed the development.

Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, will be able to investigate complaints about children and young people under 18.

He said this would enable his office to make “a constructive contribution to the overall welfare of children living in direct provision accommodation”.

“Young people in direct provision can now be assured that there is a safe, secure and independent place they can come to make a complaint,” he said.

The ombudsmen said they acknowledged the co-operation of Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald, and her officials, in bringing about the extension of jurisdiction.

The Ombudsman has produced a factsheet for residents explaining how to make a complaint.

Resource materials for direct provision centre managers have also been published, including advice on setting up a model complaints procedure.

The information is available on the Ombudsman’s website ombudsman.ie and at oco.ie.