The Irish Times view on direct provision: an end is now in sight

An overhaul of this indefensible system must be included in the programme for the next government

A small protest last month calling for the end of direct provision gathered outside the Dáil. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

A small protest last month calling for the end of direct provision gathered outside the Dáil. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

It’s now 21 years since the State introduced its system of direct provision for asylum seekers. Its failings were apparent almost immediately. Conditions varied across the network of mostly privately-run accommodation centres. A policy of “dispersal” meant many newcomers found themselves in isolated areas with poor services and few social outlets. Inspection regimes were inadequate and the State’s reliance on private providers blurred the lines of accountability.

Deterrence was built into the system. Overseen by the Department of Justice, which was driven by fear of “pull factors”, direct provision offered asylum seekers meals and a meagre allowance but no access to paid work and little chance to integrate. These limitations were morally wrong, but they also rested on an assumption that was soon undermined: in theory people were to live in these centres for a short period but in practice, because the State’s byzantine system was incapable of processing cases speedily, many ended up staying for years. The cost in mental health of such institutionalisation has been well documented.

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