Direct ProvisionFollowing on from Human Rights in Ireland’s marking of 14 Years of Direct Provision in Ireland (see all posts here), along with Caroline Reid from the Irish Refugee Council, a publication marking this event has now been produced. Once again, my thanks to all those who contributed blog posts, in particular asylum seekers who spoke of the inhuman and degrading nature of  the direct provision system. The publication includes a foreword and a timeline of 14 years of direct provision in Ireland.

You can download this publication here: C. Reid & L. Thornton eds. 2014 Direct Provision at 14 No Place to Call Home (or access an online copy here).

Foreword #DirectProvision14: No Place to Call Home

There has been a lack of considered reflection on the rationale for the introduction of separate and isolated welfare reception regimes for asylum seekers within Ireland. The welfare/justice state has become an institution of control, punishment, deprivation and humiliation for those seeking protection within Ireland. Social policies directed towards asylum and protection seekers are marked by tendencies towards social control, debasement and enforced poverty. These policies trump key international and national human rights protections within the socio-economic rights arena. The “reception conditions” in place in Ireland for asylum seekers, are used as a means of deterring protection applications, while also having a punitive effect on those who have claimed refugee or subsidiary protection, as they are prevented from working, while forced to endure a lower standard of living than those entitled to the lowest welfare benefit. While the culture of control has enveloped political and public reactions to crime and welfare in late modernity,[1] a culture of immigration control has permitted the creation of new state asylum-welfarist institutions solely targeted at asylum and protection seekers.

The Irish welfare state is a multifaceted institution, dedicated to minimum and basic provision of resources and to providing a modicum of support for those in need.[2] Welfare rights were (and to a great extent, still are) viewed as being interlinked with an individual’s status as a citizen or preferred resident within Ireland and the UK.[3] A key theme of welfare state theory is how democratic-welfare-capitalist societies are disciplinarian and controlling.[4] Those arriving to seek refugee or subsidiary protection can be viewed as a threat to the functioning of the welfare state as they are neither citizens nor preferred residents.[5] The creation of direct provision is simply yet another reactionary attack on the very existence of the Irish welfare state. Surveillance as a mode of ‘governmentality’[6] is evident.[7] Direct provision and the Reception and Integration Agency have developed hierarchical and permanent surveillance methodologies to discipline and contain those deemed problematic in Irish society-asylum seekers.[8] The linkage between welfare and citizenship or belonging to a nation, mark out those seeking asylum or protection, as prime targets for more limited social service and care provision.[9]

The “bogus myth of welfare scrounging”[10] has polluted contemporary immigration and asylum debates. A number of indices of control have emerged including: re-configuring asylum law and policy; the assertion of state power and control over aspects of the asylum seeker life within Ireland; refusal of the right to work and enforced state provision for basic needs; unique and distinct management within a separated welfare system known as ‘direct provision’; welfare provision below that provided to citizens or preferred residents within Ireland and rejection of rights claims for equal provision of welfare on the basis of differentiation of entitlement; the use  ministerial circulars in Ireland to deny the socio-economic rights of asylum seekers, ably assisted by a weak Parliament and minimal protection from courts.

The blog posts below are a testament to the continuing concerns with the system of direct provision in Ireland. Asylum seekers, artists, public representatives, policy makers and academics have for some time highlighted the punitive and impoverishing nature of the system of direct provision. For over 14 years, concerns have been raised on the impact of institutionalised living on asylum seekers in direct provision. To date, these concerns have been dismissed or simply unheard. The timeline after these blog posts, will give readers a flavour of how the system of direct provision came about, and the constant concerns expressed about such a punitive system.

Liam Thornton

May 2014



[1] See generally, Garland, D. The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society (Oxford; OUP, 2001).

[2] For a general overview of Irish social security and social assistance law, see Cousins, M. Explaining the Irish Welfare state: A Historical, Comparative and Political Analysis (Dublin: Edwin Mellen Press, 2005); McCashin, A. Social Security in Ireland (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 2004); Cousins, M. Social Welfare Law (Dublin: Thomson Roundhall, 2002). For a general overview of UK law and social welfare policy, see Jones, K. The Making of Social Policy in Britain: From the Poor Law to New Labour (London: Athlone Press, 2000), Dean, H. Welfare Rights and Social Policy (London: Pearson, 2002) and Harris, N. (ed.) Social Security Law in Context (London: OUP, 2000).

[3] Marshall T.H. & Bottomore, T. Citizenship and Social Class (London: Pluto Press, 1992), p. 28. For Ireland, see also, Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs, Building an Inclusive Society (Dublin: Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs, 2002), p. 20.

[4] Dean, H. Welfare Rights and Social Policy (London, Pearson, 2002) at p. 66. See also, Larkin, P.M. “The ‘Criminalization’ of Social Security Law: Towards a Punitive Welfare State?” (2007) 34(3) Journal of Law and Society 295 and McKeever, G. “Social Security as a Criminal Sanction” (2004) 26(1) Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law 1.

[5] Bommes, M. & Geddis, A. Immigration & Welfare: Challenging the Borders of the Welfare State (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 1

[6] Foucault, M. “Governmentality” in Burchell, G. Gordan, P. and Miller P. (eds) The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester, 1991), pp. 85-104.

[7] Foucault, M. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Penguin, 1977).

[8] See above,  pp. 1958-2001.

[9] See, Cole, D. “Their Liberties, Our Securities: Democracy and Double Standards” (2002) 54 Stanford Law Review 953 at p. 957.

[10] Geddes, A. “Denying Access and Welfare Benefits in the UK” in Bommes, M. & Geddis, A. Immigration & Welfare: Challenging the Borders of the Welfare State (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 139.

 

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Written by Liam Thornton

Liam Thornton is a lecturer in law and director of clinical legal education in University College Dublin. His particular research interests are on issues relating to the welfare state, human rights, socio-economic rights, Governmentality, immigration law and EU law. You can contact him at liam.thornton[at]ucd.ie or (+353) 1 716 4129.