Ending Institutional Living in Direct Provision: A Conclusion?

End Direct provisionA number of key themes emerged over the day as regards the system of direct provision.

Firstly, the posts from those who have experienced the direct provision themselves (see here, here and here).  These posts give but a glimpse of what it must be like to live, without a right to work, in a communal setting, to waive any sense of privacy and dignity, and to be placed at the mercy of systems and institutions that place lives on hold. A system that was introduced, as Judge Catherine McGuiness noted on Morning Ireland, as a quick fix temporary measure, has become a forum of rights denial, degradation and disempowerment of human beings.

Secondly, the worrying manner in which direct provision was created and is being implemented (see, here, here and here) and its impact on individuals, most notably children.  Law as a system is only as good as those who are responsible for creating, implementing and interpreting the law. The questions surrounding the legislative basis for direct provision and the impact that law, policy and politics have on the lives of those in direct provision show a stark disregard for their humanity. As I and others have argued previously, the system of institutionalisation of individuals reflects badly on where we in Ireland have come. The apology of our Taoiseach, Enda Kenny to those who suffered such horrendous abuses in Magdalene Laundries will ring hollow unless Continue reading “Ending Institutional Living in Direct Provision: A Conclusion?”

Ending Institutional Living in Direct Provision: A Conclusion?

Direct Provision: On the Limits of Rights, On the Limits of Law, On the Limits of Politics

Direct ProvisionThe system of direct provision is 13 years old this month. In April 2000, the system was established as a means of dealing with the relatively large numbers claiming asylum, which it was argued, was leading to accommodation shortages, particularly in the Dublin area. Some 13 years later, despite a huge fall in the numbers claiming asylum and a change in government, the system of direct provision remains in tact. Last week in Seanad Eireann (the upper house of the Irish Parliament), Senator Jillian van Turnhout (a contributor to today’s blog carnival) asked what the legislative basis for direct provision is.  In particular, Jillian asked what precisely was the legal basis for the direct provision allowance payments of €19.10 per week per adult/ €9.60 per week per child, given that asylum seekers are, in effect, legislatively barred from receiving any welfare payments.

The response of  James Reilly T.D (Minister for Heath, responding on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter T.D.) was revealing in that Minister Reilly did not respond to Senator van Turnhout’s question. Rather, Minister Reilly, while recognising problems with direct provision, maintained:

  1. Legislation for the sake of legislation is not  the answer and there is no requirement for the state to legislate to provide services to those who would otherwise not have access to any form of social assistance protection. This is incorrect, as Jillian noted in her question, Claire notes in her blog contribution today and as I have noted several times previously, the basis for direct provision is the supplementary welfare allowance scheme of providing in kind supports to asylum seekers. Since asylum seekers cannot be habitually resident, and have no entitlement to any form of social assistance payment, the Department of Social Protection is acting outside its powers by making the direct provision allowance Continue reading “Direct Provision: On the Limits of Rights, On the Limits of Law, On the Limits of Politics”
Direct Provision: On the Limits of Rights, On the Limits of Law, On the Limits of Politics

Voices from Direct Provision: My Name is Anna

Direct ProvisionHuman Rights in Ireland welcomes this post from Anna, a former resident in a direct provision centre.

My name is Anna. I am originally from Ghana and after spending 1 year in the direct provision system, I was granted refugee status. I was happy and proud to become an Irish Citizen after nine years. I first came to Ireland in July 2003 as an asylum seeker and I spent some time being transferred between direct provision accommodation centres after I arrived. I was pregnant at the time. I am extremely grateful to Ireland, its people and its government for everything they have done to help my family and me and for giving us their very best hospitality and safety. However, I believe there are many problems with the Direct Provision system and I think it should be changed for everyone’s benefit. I was incredibly lucky to have spent only 1 year living in the system. I lived in a tiny single room throughout my pregnancy.

After delivery, I had to share a single bed with my baby. There was very little personal space and there were two bathrooms that were shared between 24 people in each apartment. The rules are incredibly strict and there is very little personal freedom. I believe the situation is especially worrying for children.

People who live in the hostels come from all sorts of backgrounds, some of whom have serious mental problems and traumas for which they have not received adequate attention. Some of these people Continue reading “Voices from Direct Provision: My Name is Anna”

Voices from Direct Provision: My Name is Anna

The Politics of Direct Provision

Direct ProvisionHuman Rights in Ireland welcomes this guest post from Jillian van Turnhout. Jillian is an Independent Member (Taoiseach’s Nominee) of Seanad Éireann

My entry point into the issue of direct provision is from a children’s rights perspective. This perspective has been informed by my work on related issues as the former Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance; the recommendations of the Government appointed Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon; the concerns raised by advocacy groups; and my own recent visits to two direct provision asylum accommodation centres as an independent member of Seanad Éireann.

It has taken me a long time to wade through the mire that is the political discourse on direct provision. It has been difficult to establish which features of the system belong to the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs or indeed the Department of Social Protection.  I have struggled to understand the distinction drawn between children “cared for by the State”, as is used to describe children in direct provision, and children “in the care of the State”. I have argued strenuously that firstly, children are children irrespective of status and secondly, that it is a stretch in credulity to claim that children in direct provision are in the care of their parents in circumstances where the parents’ autonomy to make even basic decisions about their children’s care, for example what and when to eat, is so limited as to render it absent.

My overwhelming concern is that the administrative system Continue reading “The Politics of Direct Provision”

The Politics of Direct Provision

Direct Provison: Four Lives on Hold

Direct ProvisionHuman Rights in Ireland welcomes this guest post from Samantha Arnold. Samantha is the Children’s and Young Persons’ Office at the Irish Refugee Council.  She is the manager of the Independent Advocacy Pilot, a pilot that provides one-to-one support for separated children seeking asylum.

The following stories are fictional, but based on articles in newspapers or research carried out for State Sanctioned Child Poverty and Exclusion: the case of children in state accommodation for asylum seekers.  They are stories with changed names and changed details for those more vulnerable.  They tell tales of separation and hardship caused by immigration control.  The names and details of asylum seekers are changed because they fear repercussions from the Department of Justice and Equality relating to their case of asylum.

Simone

I was 21, living in New York, playing GAA and getting paid for it.  I felt on top of the world, it was a far cry from Meath anyway!  Then, disaster struck.  In July 2012, I was walking home with some friends in Woodlawn, an Irish area of the Bronx, when I was attacked leaving me with missing teeth and several facial injuries.  I reported this to the police.

This is not my story. It is the story of Alisha Jordon from Skyrne, Co Meath.  But, this happened to me too.  Attacks against the Irish are becoming more common in this area, Woodlawn.  I could not report it.  I had to pay all my hospital bills out of pocket.  I hid from police when they came to survey the crime scene, despite having a concussion.  I cannot go back to work yet and I am scared to walk down the street now.  I am Irish.  I am undocumented. My life is on hold.

Dearbhla

I am a mother of 5.  2 of my children were born outside of our country.  Here in Ireland, my children are excelling in primary school, secondary school and university.  We live in two rooms with an adjoining door.  We do not have enough space to sleep.  We do not have any privacy to dress Continue reading “Direct Provison: Four Lives on Hold”

Direct Provison: Four Lives on Hold

Building Momentum for Change: Direct Provision through an International Human Rights Lens

Direct ProvisionHuman Rights in Ireland welcomes this guest post from Saoirse Brady. Saoirse is the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) Policy and Advocacy Officer. Saoirse is responsible for FLAC’s policy work on social welfare law reform and is the author of One Size Doesn’t Fit All (2009), a legal analysis of the State’s direct provision and dispersal system for asylum seekers. Saoirse is also the author of the report Not Fair Enough, which makes the case for reform of the Social Welfare Appeals System.

While Irish organisations and support groups have been critical of the direct provision and dispersal system since its introduction 13 years ago, legitimate concerns have also been raised by international actors and bodies which have not been heeded to date.  In 2010, FLAC published One Size Doesn’t Fit All which examined the system from a human rights perspective. Our research found that the system for accommodating those seeking protection did not comply with many of the human rights principles enshrined in international law which the Irish State has voluntarily committed to uphold.

Since the publication of FLAC’s report, the State has been subject to examinations by both the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT). These international treaty bodies posed serious questions about the treatment of people seeking protection in Ireland. In June 2011, the UN CAT report queried whether protection applicants were afforded due process given the “increased drop in positive determinations for refugee status”. The low success rate of asylum claims point to inherent problems within the determination system as do the long delays in processing claims in the absence of a single procedure. Earlier that same year, the UN CERD report noted the “unreasonable periods of time” asylum seekers spent in the direct provision system and expressed concern at the potential “negative impact that the policy…has had on the welfare of asylum seekers” highlighting in particular the lengthy process “as well as poor living conditions” which it believed may contribute to mental health difficulties. The Committee ultimately called for a review of the direct provision and dispersal system.

In addition, a number of official country visits have been carried out by international delegations. At the beginning of 2011, Magdalena Sepúlveda, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, came to Ireland to assess the impact of austerity measures on some of the most vulnerable Continue reading “Building Momentum for Change: Direct Provision through an International Human Rights Lens”

Building Momentum for Change: Direct Provision through an International Human Rights Lens

Direct Provision: Real people – Unreal Solutions

Direct ProvisionHuman Rights in Ireland welcomes this guest post from Fiona Hurley,  Legal Officer in Nasc – The Irish Immigrant Support Centre

One of the most striking deficiencies of direct provision is its patent inflexibility; even when and where the system is completely inadequate to meet the medical and other needs of the individual concerned. The current system, structured as it is, is unable to cope with exceptional situations as there is no provision in place to allow asylum seekers to receive any financial support even where it is necessary that they live outside the direct provision centres on medical grounds. As the main migrant NGO in Cork, Nasc – The Irish Immigrant Support Centre has been contacted by hospitals and social workers for advice and information in the run-up to the discharge of patients who are asylum seekers, particularly when hospital staff or a social worker is concerned about the conditions that the patient will be released into. In some of these cases the patient may have undergone serious medical treatment and will require ongoing care as in a recent query regarding a man who suffered a stroke which had left him partially paralysed. These types of cases present unique challenges for both hospital staff and patients. The following case-study demonstrates the inadequacy and inflexibility of the system. Continue reading “Direct Provision: Real people – Unreal Solutions”

Direct Provision: Real people – Unreal Solutions

Voices from Direct Provision: Everybody Deserves a Home

Direct ProvisionHuman Rights in Ireland welcomes this guest post from a current resident in direct provision accommodation. The author arrived in the State as an unaccompanied minor and was placed in foster care. Upon turning 18, he was informed that he had to leave his foster family and move to direct provision accommodation.

Home is where the heart can laugh without pain, love resides, memories are created, friends always belong and laughter never ends.

Personally, I feel everybody deserves a home.

I was dreading the day I would turn to 18. I was hoping things would change for good, I would be given my own place and I never would be moved to the Hostel. Just two days after my 18th birthday I was moved to the hostel very early Monday morning. I was taken away from the family that loved me, believed in me, provided for me, preparing me to have a good future and bringing out the best in me.

In The Direct Provision/Hostel:

Direct Provision centres are regulated by the Reception Integration Agency (RIA), but the majority are owned and operated by private contractors. The private operators aim to make a maximum profit by keeping services and costs to a minimum, so centres are not a place to find comfort.

Our Human-Rights Are Not Considered

  1. We are not allowed to work.
  2. We are not allowed education.
  3. We must sign that we are in the hostel everyday like a convict.
  4. We are not allowed to cook, sometimes I see hair in the food they serve and feel discouraged eating.
  5. Everybody going flabby because of lack of exercise, too much oil in the food they give us and we have to eat what we see and not what is good for Continue reading “Voices from Direct Provision: Everybody Deserves a Home”
Voices from Direct Provision: Everybody Deserves a Home

Institutionalised Living: The Physical, Psychological and Social Impact on Children

Direct ProvisionHuman Rights in Ireland welcomes this guest post from Luke Hamilton, Outcomes Research & Communications Intern at Doras Luimhní.

“Every child deserves the chance to grow up in a free and equal environment. For children in Direct Provision, this is impossible” – compelling words from a refugee and mother in Limerick, who has witnessed children spend between one and seven years growing up within the confines of Direct Provision accommodation. Her view mirrors that of many parents concerned for their children’s wellbeing and points to one of the primary concerns associated with the asylum process in Ireland: the long-term effects of institutionalised living on children.

On Universal Children’s Day 2012, Doras Luimní launched a campaign to raise awareness of the “Invisible Children” living in Irish society, who are growing up under the Direct Provision system. The Invisible Children Campaign was conceived following consultations with asylum seeker parents who were concerned for the wellbeing of their children. They wanted to draw public attention to their living conditions but were afraid to speak out due to potential repercussions.  Doras Luimní decided to construct a “replica room”, an installation that is a dimensionally accurate representation of asylum seeker accommodation. The room allows members of the public to experience the cramped conditions for themselves, bringing concerns about the accommodation into the public eye without putting pressure on the residents to reveal their identity or put themselves or their family at risk.

Direct Provision is so-called because it provides for the immediate physical needs of asylum seekers who arrive in Ireland. It is a system that, while not defined in legislation, has been set up across the country in the form of basic accommodation centres. These centres are designed for nothing more than short-term habitation and very few cater specifically for the needs of families or individuals with special needs.  Despite the unsuitability Continue reading “Institutionalised Living: The Physical, Psychological and Social Impact on Children”

Institutionalised Living: The Physical, Psychological and Social Impact on Children

The Direct Provision Payment of €19.10 – What Rules Apply?

Direct ProvisionHuman Rights in Ireland welcomes this guest post from, Claire Cumiskey. Claire is a Legal Officer in Nasc – The Irish Immigrant Support Centre.

The Reception and Integration Agency has responsibility for providing for the needs of asylum seekers through the direct provision system while they await an outcome on their application for protection. However an anomaly exists whereby the €19.10 weekly stipend payable to asylum seekers who avail of direct provision is administered directly by Community Welfare Officers (CWOs), who are officials of the Department of Social Protection.

In our experience, providing legal advocacy and support to asylum seekers at Nasc, the Irish Immigration Support Centre, accessing the €19.10 weekly allowance payable to asylum seekers living in direct provision can present particular challenges. The €19.10 weekly payment, though subject to severe criticism, is essential to allow asylum seekers the opportunity to have a limited degree of autonomy over their daily lives.

The €19.10 weekly payment as administered by CWOs of the Department of Social Protection currently exists in a vacuum of legal uncertainty. Social welfare legislation introduced in 2009 Continue reading “The Direct Provision Payment of €19.10 – What Rules Apply?”

The Direct Provision Payment of €19.10 – What Rules Apply?