Direct Provision: The Beginning of the End?

End Direct provisionOver the last number of weeks, there have been potentially significant developments in relation to the system of direct provision for asylum seekers in Ireland. Last week, the High Court case challenging the system of direct provision concluded. A decision is expected over the next number of weeks (see here for background). Speaking on 24 June 2014, the Government indicated the continuance of the system of direct provision in its current form. The Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald noted:

Direct provision is a system which facilitates the State providing a roof over the head of those seeking protection or on other grounds to be allowed to stay in the State. The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department is responsible for the accommodation of protection applicants in accordance with the Government policy. I acknowledge that the length of time that residents spend in Direct Provision is an issue to be addressed. My immediate priority is that the factors which lead to delays in the processing of cases are dealt with so that protection seekers spend as little time as necessary in direct provision.

Changes to the system of direct provision were indicated in mid July in the Statement of Government Priorities 2014-2016, where the following commitment was provided:

While ensuring continued rigorous control of our borders and immigration procedures, we will treat asylum seekers with the humanity and respect they deserve. We are committed to addressing the current system of Direct Provision for asylum seekers to make it more respectful to the applicant and less costly to the taxpayer.

In late July,  the new Junior Minister for Justice, Aodhán O’ Ríordáin stated:

Direct provision needs radical reform. It is unacceptable that a child could spend half their life in a direct provision centre – in poverty, marginalised, stigmatised. I  will be working closely with the Minister [for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald] and officials on this. A lot of work has in fact already been done, and there is an awareness within the department it has to change.

Within the space of one month, the system of direct provision, continuously defended by the current government heretofore (see, for example, here)  is now in need of serious reform. The UN Human Rights Committee of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, expressed “concerns” with the system of direct provision, in particular recommending that an independent complaints mechanism needs to be established for those currently in direct provision centres and stated that stays in direct provision accommodation centres need to be for the shortest duration possible.

So what next?

An important stage has now commenced as regards discussions on what may replace direct provision. Any such discussions must include consultation with asylum seekers currently in direct provision, former asylum seekers who spent a period of time in direct provision and civil society organisations representing those in the protection status determination process. Away from the important questions on eliciting views of those most affected by direct provision, there are several other issues that I believe are important for the government to keep in mind: Continue reading “Direct Provision: The Beginning of the End?”

Direct Provision: The Beginning of the End?

The Rights of Others: Asylum Seekers and Direct Provision in Ireland

The Ethics of Home posterOn 24 June 2014, I spoke at a seminar The Ethic’s of ‘Home’: Direct Provision, Homelessness and Ireland’s Housing Policies.  This seminar, organised by Dr Ronni Greenwood, sought to explore conceptions and meanings of home, in the context of housing and homelessness. My paper, The Rights of Others: Asylum Seekers and Direct Provision in Ireland sought to explore the difficulties in rights based approaches to the social and economic rights of asylum seekers, those treated as ‘others’ within and by Irish society.  President Michael D. Higgins, speaking earlier this month, noted:

[T]he national appropriation of ‘human rights’ – their entanglement with citizenship – has given rise to new categories of persons without rights, such as refugees, displaced and stateless persons. How are we to conceive of the rights of these people, whose number is in the millions in the world today?

For at least the third time over the last 12 months, the system of direct provision is currently under sustained media scrutiny (see here, here, here and here). (It should be noted that the system has been under the scrutiny and condemnation from many human rights organisations for the past 14 years). This paper seeks to ponder on whether asylum seekers in Ireland truly enjoy “the right to have rights”. You can access my full paper here: The Rights of Others: Asylum Seekers and Direct Provision in Ireland. The slides from my presentation are available here: UL Ethics Seminar-The Rights of Others: Asylum Seekers & Direct Provision in Ireland.

 

The Rights of Others: Asylum Seekers and Direct Provision in Ireland

The Myth of the Cherished Child in Ireland

DP End Institutionalised LivingThe last number of weeks have seen much hand wringing and pretense of ‘not knowing’ from government, politicians and the public at large to the treatment of mothers and children for many decades in Ireland (see here, here, here and here). The penal institutions of borstals, industrial schools, ‘unmarried mother’ country homes, homes for first unmarried mother ‘offenders’, Magdalenes’, and mental hospitals, were used as a means to (mainly) punish the poor for being poor, to punish women for perceived moral sleights on the country at large and to deal with ‘problematic populations’ in Irish society. Women in the newly independent Ireland were to be disciplined for stepping outside the boundaries of what was deemed respectable Irish republican-catholic values and mores.

Hundreds of  single parents and children in mass accommodation centres would of course not happen today, given that these are, as the new Minister for Children noted, yet more ‘dark chapters’ from Ireland’s past.

But, as has been highlighted by asylum seekers in Ireland (see here, here, here ,  here and here), Una Mullally, Helena Byrne and Gavin Titley (in 2012),the system of direct provision continues to exist. No inquiries to why 1,666 children have been warehoused in direct provision accommodation centres for years on end, no government concerns about the impact that institutionalised living is having on asylum seekers in direct provision, no hand wringing, no understanding, no pity, no interest. This, however, goes beyond government creation and maintenance of the direct provision system. There is no widespread public concern for direct provision, there is no call from the public at large for this system to end, there is little empathy and almost no compassion regarding the rights of mothers, fathers and children in direct provision. As it usually takes a few decades for the public to feign outrage and ignorance of what is well known, then will we have to wait for some sort of inquiry to inform us that direct provision has debilitating effects on all those resident in these ‘accommodation centres’.

But for the willingness of asylum seekers to speak out, and several organisations, notably the Irish Refugee Council, NASC, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, Doras Luimi   and dogged  interventions by some politicians, public reaction is muted, disinterested and uncaring.  The failure of Irish society to learn from past actions, is telling. The timeline below (first iteration of this here) shows just how much we do know. Moments such as now are times when substantive change can come about, it is important that this moment does not go to pass without the annihilation of the direct provision system. Direct provision is no place to call homeContinue reading “The Myth of the Cherished Child in Ireland”

The Myth of the Cherished Child in Ireland

New Publication: #DirectProvision14 No Place to Call Home

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.

 

New Publication: #DirectProvision14 No Place to Call Home

Direct Provision, Local Elections and Political Campaigning

RIAThere has been some developments in the last few hours as regards local election candidates and political campaigning in direct provision centres.  On April 23, Noel Dowling of the Reception and Integration Agency issued Circular 1/14 to all direct provision centre managers [see here: RIA Circular 1-14 of 23 April 2014] noting that there can be no display or distribution of party political leaflets, posters or circulars to residents. This did not prevent addressed literature from being delivered to residents.

On May 14 2014, Noel Dowling of the Reception and Integration Agency issued Circular 2/14 to all direct provision centre managers. This circular varies Circular 1/14 of April 2014 in one important respect:

Candidates who call into centres may be allowed to drop off election leaflets to bve picked up and read by residents if they wish. This material may be left in a suitable designated area of the centre such as the reception desk. Candidates may, if they wish, place on their leaflets their contact details or details of political meetings outside the centre to which residents can be invited.

You can see this full circular here: RIA Circular 2-14 of 14 May 2014

While this still denies asylum seekers the right to be canvassed by candidates for the local election in direct provision centres, at the very least it allows some information to be provided to asylum seekers in direct provision centres. Issues remain with this, I would argue that such a blanket ban on allowing asylum seekers receive (if they wish) election candidates is a disproportionate violation of freedom of expression  as protected under the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003. This development is due to KOD Lyons who had made representations on behalf of a client. A local election candidate in Cork, Donnchadha O’ Laoghaire (Sinn Fein), had brought the issue to national attention earlier this week. NASC, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre and the Immigrant Council of Ireland  noted the significant legal issues with the previous all encompassing ban on direct provision centres as “politically neutral” zones.

NASC, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, has cautiously welcomed this development, stating:

RIA have stopped short of allowing canvassing in the centres. We continue to be concerned that the ban on canvassing essentially remains in place. It has to be noted that the Direct Provision Centres are the homes of asylum seekers whilst they are awaiting an outcome of their application.

 

Direct Provision, Local Elections and Political Campaigning

Direct Provision System Challenged Before the Irish High Court: Day 2

fourcourtsThe case  C.A and T.A. (a minor) v Minister for Justice and Equality, Minister for Social Protection, the Attorney General and Ireland (Record No.  2013/751/JR), challenging the constitutional, legislative and rights basis of the direct provision system continued before Mr Justice Colm Mac Eochaidh in Court 13 of the High Court today. A number of procedural and substantive issues were raised.

1. Power of the Executive to Introduce Administrative Direct Provision Scheme

One of the arguments of the applicants is that the Executive does not have the power to introduce the direct provision scheme on an administrative basis due to the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005 (as amended) prohibiting asylum seekers from receiving most payments under Irish social welfare law. Judge Mac Eochaidh requested the applicants and the respondents (the State) to consider whether the hearing should proceed on this point alone, leave all other arguments aside. After receiving instructions from the clients, lead counsel for the applicants, Mr Saul Woolfson BL stated that the preference would be for the entirety of the arguments to be considered. The case is now proceeding on this basis.

2. The Budget and Direct Provision

Mr Justice  Mac Eochaidh asked counsel for the applicants where was direct provision expenditure approved in the State’s budgetary processes. The Department of Justice and Equality Estimates for 2014 (as in previous years 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000) Continue reading “Direct Provision System Challenged Before the Irish High Court: Day 2”

Direct Provision System Challenged Before the Irish High Court: Day 2

Direct Provision System Challenged Before the Irish High Court: Day 1

Four CourtsToday, 29 April 2014, an important case commenced challenging the system of direct provision in Ireland In C.A and T.A. (a minor) v Minister for Justice and Equality, Minister for Social Protection, the Attorney General and Ireland (Record No.  2013/751/JR). Today, the case was dominated by procedural arguments.  The applicants are challenging the system of direct provision on a number of grounds, including:

1. Lack of Statutory Basis for Direct Provision &  Nature of Direct Provision Allowance

The applicants are arguing that the lack of a statutory basis for the system of direct provision and payment of direct provision allowance of €19.10 per week per adult and €9.60 per week, per child,  has no legal basis,  continues to operate unlawfully, through ministerial circulars and administrative arrangements without any legal basis. This, it is argued, is a violation of Article 15.2.1. of the Constitution which provides the: “sole and exclusive power of making laws for the State is hereby vested in the Oireachtas: no other legislative authority has power to make laws for the State”.  On this blog, I have repeatedly made the argument that the direct provision system is without any legal basis and by operating the system of direct provision, the various government departments are acting outside their powers (see herehereherehereherehere ,here and here).  I have also examined this issue in an article in the Journal of Social Security Law, “Social Welfare Law and Asylum Seekers in Ireland: An Anatomy of Exclusion” (a pre-peer reviewed version of this article is available here).

2. System of Direct Provision is a Violation Rights under the Irish Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights

The applicants are arguing that the system of direct provision, the lack of any independent complaints process, the constant surveillance, control of what an applicant can eat violate the following legally protected rights:

The issue of the human rights impact of direct provision has been examined extensively on this blog. See also here for a discussion on the socio-economic rights of asylum seekers in Europe and international law.

3. The Refusal to Consider the Adult Subsidiary Protection Applicant‘s Right to Work

The adult applicant in this case had requested permission to work, however this was refused by the Minister for Justice in 2013. The applicant contends that as a subsidiary protection applicant, the Minister cannot rely on Section 9(4) of the Refugee Act 1996 (which prohibits asylum seekers from seeking or entering employment). The Minister must consider her application to be allowed work in its own right.

4. Blanket Exclusion of Asylum Seekers and those seeking Subsidiary Protection from Accessing Social 

The applicant is further challenging the absolute exclusion of those seeking asylum/subsidiary protection from accessing social welfare rights under the Social Welfare Act 2005 (as amended) (see here and here).

This case is of significant interest to asylum seekers, so many of whom have spent several years in the asylum process. I will provide regular updates on this case on Human Rights in Ireland as the case progresses (in so far as I can). For now, this case represents yet another challenge to the system of direct provision, a system whose purpose is to dehumanise, deter, and violate the very essence of human dignity.

A summary of the arguments in Day Two of the case can be found here.

Direct Provision System Challenged Before the Irish High Court: Day 1

#DirectProvision14: Photography Exhibition ‘One year on, and still no change’

IRCCaroline Reid is the Communications Officer for Irish Refugee Council

‘One year on, and still no change’, Thursday 24 April, 6pm at the Powerscourt Gallery in Dublin city centre.

This marks one year since the national day of action last year which called for an end to the institutional accommodation of people seeking international protection in Ireland. The exhibition includes images from Zoë O’Reilly, Rory O’Neill and the Asylum Archive, and offers a glimpse into the reality of life in the Direct Provision system for those seeking our protection. The focus and aim of the exhibition is to raise awareness about the human cost of the current system, in particular the impact on the children who are growing up within it. Please feel free to extend the invitation to friends, colleagues and family, and circulate the flyer across your social media channels or website. The exhibition will run for two weeks, 24 April – 8 May 2014.

Those interested in supporting the work of the Irish Refugee Council can donate here.

You can contribute to this event and help us to raise awareness about the impact Direct Provision is having on over 4,000 men, women and children by sponsoring the event. Dublin based graphic and textile designer, Ruth Tutty, has kindly offered her skills and will design a piece based around this issue. By way of thanks to sponsors:

All €1 donations will receive a postcard of Ruth’s design

All €10 donations will receive a poster of Ruth’s design

All €20 donations will receive both a postcard and a poster of Ruth’s design

All €50 donations will receive a print of their choice from Zoë or Rory’s collection

For further information please visit www.irishrefugeecouncil.ie or email caroline@irishrefugeecouncil.ie

Photographer bios: Continue reading “#DirectProvision14: Photography Exhibition ‘One year on, and still no change’”

#DirectProvision14: Photography Exhibition ‘One year on, and still no change’

#directprovision14 14 Years and 1 Day: Challenging the Politics of Direct Provision

DP End Institutionalised LivingLiam Thornton is a lecturer in law in UCD. Claire Murray is a lecturer in law in UCC. 

On RTE’s Morning Ireland, Aisling Kenny traveled to a direct provision centre in the West of Ireland and spoke to children and families about what it was like to live in direct provision. [You can access a longer report here]. The children spoke of the profound effect that condemnation for years on end to direct provision is having on their education, their sense of identity, sense of belonging and integration with their local communities.

Letter Template to Members of the Oireachtas

Yesterday’s 14 hour direct provision blogathon  (you can access all posts here), highlighted many of the same problems. Continue reading “#directprovision14 14 Years and 1 Day: Challenging the Politics of Direct Provision”

#directprovision14 14 Years and 1 Day: Challenging the Politics of Direct Provision

#directprovision14 Conclusion: The Start of Year 15

World Refugee Day 1960

How slowly they die
as we kneel beside them, whisper in their ear.
And we are too late. We are always too late

Eavan Boland, Outside History (1990)

I would like to thank all contributors for their posts today, in particular persons in the direct provision system, who have shared their own personal experiences and stories from the direct provision system. This event would not have been able to take place without each of these people willing to contribute a post to the marking of 14 Years of Direct Provision in Ireland. A very special thanks to Reuben Hambakachere, who wanted to put his name to the post.  Two others deserve special mention, Caroline Reid, Communications Officer, Irish Refugee Council for coordinating blog posts from most of the asylum seekers for today’s blogathon. Also, many thanks to Muireann Ni Raghallaigh for offering advice and assistance throughout. 

To get involved in campaigns relating to direct provision, please see the following organisations: Doras Luimni; Irish Refugee Council; Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre and Anti-Deportation Ireland

The operation of aspects of direct provision is a

…type of operation one might apply in prisoner of war camps during a war, not the type of approach that a civilised democratic western European country should apply in any situation

Alan Shatter TD, Minister for Justice, (then opposition spokesperson on justice in 2010)

So after 14 years after the system of direct provision, where are we? The system of direct provision remains. There is, I believe, no groundswell of support for ending the system of direct provision. Moments that could have hinted at a more systemic change, when we as a State examined how we previously treated those condemned to industrial schools, borstals and Magdalenes. These critical moments for change has passed and gone, but these moments will come again. Those who seek to bring an end to the system of direct provision still have to make it relevant to those beyond asylum seekers, human rights organisations, students, and those of us interested in human rights in academia.

No matter how much those of us already convinced of the need for change, the State will always use the trump card of the spectre of hordes at our borders, scheming and waiting for any sort of humanity to Continue reading “#directprovision14 Conclusion: The Start of Year 15”

#directprovision14 Conclusion: The Start of Year 15