'Society can no longer tolerate the Direct Provision system'
The Direct Provision system is the provision of accommodation for people seeking protection in Ireland. The system was originally designed to accommodate a person for up to six months, but the reality is that 60% of people in Direct Provision have been living there for over 3 years. It is important to recognise that more than one third of those living in Direct Provision are children. This means that over 1600 children are currently spending their childhood years subjected to poverty, living in cramped conditions with limited opportunity to enjoy family life, and are forced to share their daily living spaces with strangers. Children in Direct Provision are obliged to live in such conditions due to an ongoing Government policy.
A recent European report has criticised the Direct Provision system in Ireland, recommending an in-depth review to be carried out and an alternative model for accommodating asylum-seekers be introduced. The European Commission on Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has stated that asylum-seekers in this system have little control over their lives which has an impact on family life, and that the accommodation system is unsuitable for lengthy periods as it has an effect on residents' mental health. The ECRI monitoring report also recommends increasing the weekly allowance of €19.10 per week for asylum-seekers as it has never been increased since 1999, and to consider granting asylum-seekers who have been in Ireland for a significant period of time the right to work. A recent response from the Minister for Justice and Equality tells us that the State has paid €655.5 million to private contractors to provide accommodation for asylum-seekers from 2000 to 2010. This is a large sum of money but it is not a reflection of what people living within the system are receiving. We must question why we are supporting a system that undermines people's human rights and permits children to live in wholly unsuitable conditions.
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny's unreserved apology to the women who were subjected to institutional living within the Magdalene laundries referred to the values of Irish society and asserts that society now has ‘more compassion, empathy, insight and heart'. If society is now ‘guided by the principles of compassion and social justice' and embraces and values difference rather than fearing and hiding it, then the State must take responsibility for the impact the Direct Provision system has on young people and their families, and must act to end this system as a matter of urgency.
Residents have no choice as to where they will live, not permitted to work, have restricted access to social welfare, cannot cook for themselves, lack of privacy as one family may share one room, or single people will share with up to 3 other people, children do not receive child benefit which creates inequality amongst children living in Ireland, the Direct Provision allowance has never been increased since 1999
- The system of Dispersal and Direct Provision was introduced in 1999 to provide full board accommodation to asylum seekers while they waited for the outcome of their application for protection status.
- Operated by Reception and Integration Agency, a unit within the Department of Justice and Equality.
- It was originally intended that people would be accommodated within the Direct Provision system for a period of six months only.
- Residents are provided with full board accommodation, €19.10 per adult and €9.60 per child per week, access to exceptional needs payments for clothing, access to back to school clothing allowance for children, children can attend school up to completion of second level.
Mayo Intercultural Action (MIA) exists to promote the positive effects of interculturalism and the meaningful participation of migrants and their families in all aspects of the community in County Mayo. MIA is a voluntary group whose vision is of an open, just and equal Ireland, where human rights and cultural differences are respected and where new Irish communities are offered equal rights and opportunities.
Since its foundation in 2004 MIA has worked to generate a real and optimistic impact on the lives of migrants and their families as well as the wider population in County Mayo over the past number of years. Achievements include:
- Publication of "Building a Diverse Mayo - A Report on Immigration, Integration and Services Provision" which was well received and continues to contribute to policy formation in the county.
- High level of publicity in the public sphere on matters relating to migrants experiences in County Mayo.
- Contribution to the formation of the Mayo Integration Forum which has become significant arena for discussion, increasing statutory and NGO organisations awareness of migration issues.
- Alliance building with a wide range of agencies including other NGOs, statutory and private sector organisations at local regional and national levels.
- Delivery of two significant training, educational and development programmes - European Refugee Fund Programme and Equality Women's Measure.