A National Day of Action on Direct Provision calling for an end to institutionalised living for asylum seekers under the system of direct provision was held on Tuesday 23rd April. A strong crowd gathered at Market Square, Castlebar at 12pm to highlight the conditions experienced by the several thousand people who are accommodated within Direct Provision. The campaign is asking for an end to the current system which results in some families spending up to 7 years living in cramped and unsuitable conditions with no right to work and with limited choice over the most basic of life's decisions. The crowd walked to the office of An Taoiseach Enda Kenny to deliver a letter asking for an immediate reform of the current direct provision system.
Cllr. Thérèse Ruane, founder of Mayo Intercultural Action said ‘the system of Direct Provision was originally designed to accommodate a person for up to six months, but the reality is the majority of people in direct provision have been living there for over 3 years, and for many up to 6 and 7 years. In Mayo over 290 people live within Direct Provision. The system takes away basic human dignities, and it is most disturbing to consider that more than one third of those in direct provision are children.'
Felicia who currently lives in direct provision spoke at the event, saying ‘the system has a serious impact on people's mental health as they are left in limbo for several years. Children are growing up in an unsuitable environment sharing bedrooms with their parents, with no space to play or do their homework. They see their parents are not allowed to work and children miss out on many childhood experiences as parents have no way to support them.' Michelle Rooney of Mayo Intercultural Action added that ‘as a society we cannot allow this system to continue. For years we have been learning about the abuses and harms inflicted on vulnerable people in Ireland's past in unregulated and poorly monitored institution. It is unspeakable that this is still happening today to a very vulnerable group of children, men and women.'
The campaign on Direct Provision is asking for reform of the current system of Direct Provision and to introduce a model of reception that is based on providing supports for people seeking protection, with provisions for appropriate self-catering accommodation and the right to work after a 6 month period if a decision on the protection application is pending.
· The system of Direct Provision was set up on an administrative basis in 2000 to cope with a significant increase in the numbers seeking asylum in Ireland. It was intended that asylum seekers would spend approximately 6 months living in accommodation centres.
· The majority of asylum seekers have been resident in Direct Provision centres for over three years and a significant number for more than seven.
· The value of contracts to private businesses to operate Direct Provision centre was €655 million from 2000 to 2010. The estimated expenditure for 2012 was €63.5 million.
· There are approximately 4,800 people living in Direct Provision accommodation of whom 34% are children