Spike in domestic violence reports in direct provision centres

Increase in reports of domestic violence and harassment of asylum-seekers

There have been 29 reports of domestic violence, sexual violence, or harassment of asylum-seekers in direct provision to date this year, up significantly from two reports recorded in 2020.

There have been 29 reports of domestic violence, sexual violence, or harassment of asylum-seekers in direct provision to date this year, up significantly from two reports recorded in 2020.

 

There has been a spike in the number of reports of domestic violence or cases of harassment in direct provision centres this year to a seven-year high, new figures show.

There has been 29 reports of domestic violence, sexual violence, or harassment of asylum-seekers in direct provision to date this year, up significantly from two reports recorded in 2020.

There were 14 reports of domestic violence in direct provision centres made this year to the International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS), who run the direct provision system, which provides accommodation to people seeking asylum in Ireland.

There were 13 cases of harassment reported, as well as one instance of sexual violence, and another case of gender-based violence.

In 2019 there were four reports of domestic violence and one case of sexual violence, with seven cases the previous year. IPAS began recording reports of domestic violence and harassment in direct provision in 2015.

Over the seven years since there has been 43 reports of domestic violence, 19 cases of harassment, three cases of sexual violence, and two reports of gender-based violence.

The figures were provided to Carol Nolan, Independent TD for Laois-Offaly, in response to a parliamentary question.

Commenting on the figures, Ms Nolan said “my overwhelming concern here is to ensure that everyone resident in the State, in whatever capacity, is free from the threat of sexual violence or harassment.”

Underrepresentation

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said the IPAS provide assistance to gardaí investigating any incidents of violence or harassment. He noted asylum-seekers may report abuse directly to gardaí, and not inform the IPAS.

Nick Henderson, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council, said it was possible the numbers were an underrepresentation, due to a lack of interpreter services, as well as a fear of raising concerns. Often asylum-seekers “would think twice” about reporting issues to management in centres, and would have a “natural suspicion of authority,” he said.

While not an excuse for violence, it was “clear” the Covid-19 pandemic was putting “a huge amount of pressure on people” in the asylum system, he said.

Bulelani Mfaco, a spokesman for the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (Masi), said the organisation had dealt with “several cases” of domestic violence in direct provision.

Living in accommodation centres could be “stressful”, and place a strain on people’s mental health and relationships, he said. Families of two adults and several children were often living in one bedroom, he said.

Women could also be reluctant to report violence or harassment, due to the impact it could have on the man’s asylum case. “It becomes very difficult for people to come forward,” he said.

A Department of Children and Integration spokesman said there could be “multiple factors” behind the increase in reports this year, such as “greater awareness of domestic violence as an issue or greater reporting of it”.