The Irish Times view on direct provision: A shared responsibility

Renting privately owned hotels as an emergency measure may be least bad option

 

Some people complain because the Department of Justice has rented three underused hotels as a means of providing emergency shelter for a growing number of asylum seekers. What was the alternative? A chronic lack of space at direct provision centres forced its officials to direct those seeking accommodation to city centre homeless services. Should displaced and vulnerable people be exposed to the risk of rough sleeping, exploitation and worse while their asylum applications are processed?

These developments expose the inadequacies of the direct provision system and a complementary failure to build an adequate supply of social and affordable housing. Even where asylum has been granted to refugees and work permits issued, some 500 people still remain in direct provision because of a shortage of alternative, affordable accommodation. Any preferential treatment of asylum seekers in such circumstances would probably spark a xenophobic public response because of competition for a limited housing supply.

Poverty-stricken Greece received 42,000 refugees last year. Ireland, a relatively rich country, accepted fewer than 3,000

Renting privately owned hotels as an emergency measure may be the least-bad option. Well-wishers expressed concern that isolated locations might have a depressing effect on foreign-born residents. But others sought to exploit local concerns without offering alternative options.

Ellie Kisyombe, from Dublin, at a rally in 2016 calling for the end to the direct provision system for asylum seekers, in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Ellie Kisyombe, from Dublin, at a rally in 2016 calling for the end to the direct provision system for asylum seekers, in Dublin. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Public opinion has forced gradual change on our direct provision system. EU standards, that require applications to be heard within nine months, were formally adopted. But delays still amount to more than two years. Basic allowances have increased and refugees were given access to the ombudsman system. But living conditions at such centres remain deeply unsatisfactory. Reception centres are planned for hotels in Wicklow town, Moville, Co Donegal and Rooskey in Co Roscommon. Compared with pressure on Mediterranean countries, struggling to cope with people fleeing war and persecution, it is no big deal. Poverty-stricken Greece received 42,000 refugees last year. Ireland, a relatively rich country, accepted fewer than 3,000.

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