Refugees accepted into Ireland will end up in ‘direct provision’

Irish Refugee Council warns that housing people in barracks prevents integration

 Motasem (left) from Syria and Edel McGinley of the Migrant Rights Centre  at the NGO Coalition meeting about the refugee crisis. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Motasem (left) from Syria and Edel McGinley of the Migrant Rights Centre at the NGO Coalition meeting about the refugee crisis. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times


Refugees and migrants accepted into Ireland as part of the European Union’s resettlement efforts risk ending up in direct provision centres, warned the head of the Irish Refugee Council.

“I want to debunk the myth that these people will not go into direct provision,” said Sue Conlon of the IRC, highlighting last week’s suggestion about using former army barracks to house people fleeing conflict.

“If former military barracks are not a form of institution equivalent to direct provision then I don’t know what they are,” said Ms Conlon. “And at the moment the ones they have earmarked are going to be run by providers of direct provision centres. They’re not going to be run by people with the specialist skills and support needed for the group of people that we’ve got coming.

“Integration does not exist if you’re in military barracks; it does not exist if you’re in a direct provision centre.”

Ms Conlon was speaking at a meeting of civil society organisations who are jointly calling on the Government to develop a clear plan of action on how Ireland will respond to the refugee crisis ahead of the EU Justice and Home Affairs meeting on September 14th.

The groups, including ActionAid Ireland, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland and Trócaire, said the State must “significantly increase” the number people it welcomes to Ireland over the coming years, implement “a transparent and accelerated process of relocation and resettlement”, and address the root causes of the crisis by urging European governments to honour their international aid development commitments.

Ms Conlon called on Irish leaders to pay attention to the generosity and hospitality of the Irish public.

“The public is ahead of the politicians but, at the moment, the Government and politicians are not actually responding properly to what the public is saying.

“There has to be a way to work with that, that enables people to move on and become part of the community; not in isolated areas.”

Jim Clarken of Oxfam Ireland said the State needs to show strong leadership and put “moral pressure” on other European leaders to open their borders to people fleeing conflict. “The response from Europe has been so paltry and mean-spirited in the last couple of years. That needs to change and it needs to change dramatically,” said Mr Clarken.

“We need to see a very specific plan of action . . . now. How are we going to bring people safely into Ireland? How are we going to house them, clothe them, feed them?”

Speaking at Wednesday’s press conference, Motasem from Syria highlighted the number of children killed in the Syrian conflict since 2011.

Syrian children are faced with three choices, he said: they can stay in Syria and die in a bomb attack, move to refugee camps and live in “inhumane environments” or leave for Europe to find a “country that gives them a chance for a new future”.

“Syrian children die every day and we just take pictures,” said Motasem. “I would like to say, ‘open the door and stop the war’. That is my message.”