Direct provision may not end if Government does not act now, Coalition warned

Ministers pledged to end the system by 2024 but updated report finds some vital steps have not been taken

The State is at risk of “perpetuating direct provision” instead of ending it if the correct action is not taken now, an unpublished report being considered by the Government has warned.

Months after taking office, the Coalition made a landmark pledge to phase out the system of direct provision by 2024.

An expert advisory group, headed by Catherine Day, has delivered an updated report on the issue to Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman which now calls for an end to the use of private-sector accommodation for new arrivals.

It is understood the report says that unless care is taken to secure the right kind of medium-term accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers, there is a risk of perpetuating direct provision instead of ending it.


It finds that the necessary steps to provide a permanent reception structure for the future have not yet been taken.

The same group previously recommended that two new reception centres should be built by the end of May of this year using emergency powers, but this has not been done. The expert group is calling on the Government to use, if necessary, compulsory purchase orders to build six such centres by the end of next year.

The authors are understood to be calling on the Government to clearly recommit to ending direct provision even if it is on a longer time frame.

A source said a large section of the report deals with the overreliance on the private commercial sector to provide accommodation for asylum seekers, and finds that this system has failed on practical, economic and legal grounds.

There is not enough accommodation available to meet the numbers of people arriving, which has resulted in some being forced into homelessness for weeks at a time.

The Irish Times understands that the report finds that: the Government should end the use of private-sector accommodation for new arrivals, except for short-term emergency overflow; that the Department of Housing should set up a new agency to look after the search for accommodation; and that there is a need for better communication with communities given recent tensions.

As of the end of March of this year there were 5,197 people with permission to stay in Ireland living in direct-provision centres. In the first four months of 2023 just 525 people moved out of direct-provision accommodation.

The report also finds that some, but not all, Government departments have played their part in trying to solve the crisis.

It says the Department of the Taoiseach should be given a co-ordinating role in ensuring delivery of the White Paper commitments to end direct provision.

Furthermore, a State agency should be set up for the accommodation of asylum seekers by the end of 2024 and responsibility should be with the Department of Housing.

The authors also examined the Government’s current level of communication with the public and found that it is unacceptable that local communities are informed of new arrivals only at the last minute.

There is a particular recommendation for a discussion on the integration of single male asylum seekers, because of misinformation circulated by some anti-immigrant groups.

The as-yet unpublished report is also understood to strongly criticise the differing treatment between Ukrainian and other refugees, pointing towards a stark difference which is “objectionable”.

The original White Paper on ending direct provision proposed a two-stage “blended” accommodation system. Newly-arrived asylum seekers would spend a maximum of four months in State-owned reception centres before moving into not-for-profit housing secured through approved housing bodies.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and a post-Covid increase in numbers of those seeking international protection in Ireland have severely impacted this.

The planning assumptions underpinning the White Paper were based on average projected arrivals of 3,500 international protection applicants per year.

A record 13,615 people sought international protection in 2022, leading to new arrivals having to sleep in substandard accommodation and sometimes in tents or on the streets.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times