Caroline Reid is Communications Officer in the Irish Refugee Council.
It is not long now until World Refugee Week, a week that honours the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homeland under threat of persecution, conflict and violence. It is also a time to acknowledge and celebrate their contribution to Irish society and culture. This year the Irish Refugee Council is supporting and hosting a number of events throughout the week, culminating with a special event on the 20th June, World Refugee Day.
The celebrations will kick off on the 15th June with the annual Fair Play Cup, organised by UNHCR Ireland (the UN Refugee Agency) and SARI (Sport Against Racism Ireland). The IRC is supporting this event by organising a family-focused day of activities. We will have performers from the Dublin Community Circus, face painters and activities for children, including reading circles and painting stations.
This event is open to all. There will be food, football and hopefully lots of sunshine! The day kicks off at 11am and runs until 4pm at the Law Society, Blackhall Place, Dublin 7, Ireland. Continue reading “World Refugee Week Events in Dublin”
Today is International Human Rights Day 2013. This year, the theme is one of reflection on twenty years of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action on Human Rights. The Vienna Declaration emphasised the indivisibility and interconnectedness of all human rights protections. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is emphasising the human rights achievements over the last two decades. Indeed, the achievements of Ireland in the protection of human rights over the last twenty years should be commended in a host of areas: free speech, LGBT rights, placing refugee status determination on a statutory footing; further attempts to protect socio-economic rights; establishing a national human rights institution and providing some domestic effect to the European Convention on Human Rights (amongst a select few achievements). This is not to say that Ireland is fully complying with its international or European human rights obligations in all these areas, but things have significantly progressed in the last two decades. One issue that has emerged in the last 20 years however, has been how Ireland treats those who claim asylum in this State.
The modalities of direct provision were communicated to various government departments on international human rights day in December 1999. Fourteen years later, the Irish Refugee Council is today highlighting alternatives to the system of direct provision. The urgency for a different approach and a new way forward is further evidenced by yesterday’s reports from Dr Joan Giller in West Cork of the tremendous damage that the system of direct provision is causing.
In a new report the Irish Refugee Council is seeking to add to the debate on alternatives to the direct provision system. Today, they have launched their new report, Direct Provision: Framing an Alternative Reception System for People Seeking International Protection. The Irish Refugee Council make it very clear, that not all the proposals contained are definitive nor is the report exhaustive, but the purpose of this very timely report is to start the debate on alternatives to the system of direct provision. While recognising the need for a transition to new arrangements, the Irish Refugee Council’s proposals include:
- A single protection procedure be introduced as soon as possible in 2014 in order that the aim of processing the majority of new asylum claims within six months can be achieved. Asylum seekers be granted early legal advice when dealing with their asylum claim.
- The weekly allowance currently paid to asylum seekers be increased in line with the increases in social welfare since 2001.
- Restoration of universal child benefit for the children of asylum seekers.
- Stays in reception centres be limited to 6 months, and such accommodation respects family life and the best interests of the child. There should be an independent complaints and inspection mechanisms.
- A system be introduced to identify particularly vulnerable asylum seekers;
- After six months in a reception centre, an asylum seeker be granted the right to work and the right to access the private rental market. Access to rent supplement/supplementary welfare allowance to be made on basis of satisfying means test already established.
It remains to be seen, whether this time next year, there will be progress towards dismantling the current direct provision system.
Human Rights in Ireland is pleased to welcome this guest post from Samantha Arnold. Samantha is the Children’s and Young Persons’ Officer 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.
In 2011, the Irish Refugee Council along with 7 other European Member States undertook research relating to the needs of separated children seeking asylum in the context of guardianship. In this report, Closing a Protection Gap, Ireland (among other countries) highlighted the need for more information in respect of the asylum process itself. This need was identified by both social workers practicing in Ireland and the child participants.
This year, in March, the Irish Refugee Council and UNICEF Ireland hosted an Easter Camp for young people focusing on human rights and asylum. The participants, of whom there were 27, highlighted a number of concerns relating to asylum, however much of the needs were underscored by a fundamental absence in information on asylum. The children, who were separated children, separated young people over Continue reading “Call for Funding for Youth Led Video for Young People Seeking Asylum”
Dr Liam Thornton is a lecturer in law in University College Dublin.
A number of core themes and issues have emerged from today’s blog carnival, organised by Samantha Arnold of the Irish Refugee Council.
In Samantha’s post, she noted that separated children need to be cared for under the Child Care Act 1991, and the challenges that social workers faced when dealing with separated children in Ireland. Samantha looked at how the Independent Advocacy Pilot was leading to better outcomes for separated children, yet also the enormous challenges facing separated children as they transition to adulthood. Lisa has noted the sense of purpose and achievement of involvement with the Independent Advocacy Pilot and has emphasised the role of the voice of the child as being key to understanding their needs, wishes and dreams. Tom, relying on his expertise from working with separated children in both the UK and Ireland concludes that while their are differences between both jurisdictions, a key unifier is, how the treatment of separated children by the state can add to the already enormous toll these children are under. This theme is taken forward by both Muireann and Brian. Muireann notes the positive impact of fostering for separated children, how it gives these children a sense of belonging and provides much needed stability. Brian, discusses the issue of adulthood of aged out minors and the pitfalls involved in the direct provision system for these very vulnerable young men and women. Jenna is direct and correct in Continue reading “Conclusion: Separated Children in Ireland”
John Duffy, Youth Worker in BeLonG To Youth Services
I’ve been working with BeLonG To for the last 5 years and since I started, and particularly over the last 12 months, the BeLonG To team have been working with an ever increasing number of asylum seekers and refugee youth who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and/or Transgender (LGBT).
As with all asylum seekers and refugees, there are a large number of difficulties which they have to negotiate. This includes the persecution they experienced in their home country, the difficulties they have all too often experienced en route to Ireland and the economic and social hardships that they often have to deal with in Ireland.
For those that are LGBT there are particular nuances in the difficulties that they experience in their journey to finding refuge. Some are unique, others are typical of the universal experience of refugee and asylum youth. These can be divided into many different areas, but I wish to focus this discussion on 2 particular topics: accommodation and integration.
On the first there has been an ever increasing awareness that a “one size fits all” approach to the accommodation Continue reading “LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugee Youth”
Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council
In October 2012, a report entitled ‘Difficult to believe: the assessment of asylum claims in Ireland’ was published by the Irish Refugee Council, analysing the approach taken by both the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT) to applications for asylum. The report was based upon research undertaken between June and September 2012.
Of the 86 files included in the research, ten were claims by children (Six girls and four boys. One was a claim for family reunion and did not give rise to any issue under the Refugee Convention). Of these, three were born in Ireland to parents who were already in the asylum process. Children born after the parents claim asylum are required to claim asylum in order for the family to receive additional support for the child through the Reception and Integration Agency. This means without applying for asylum, the child would not be entitled to accommodation or the €9.60 allowance. The oldest of the three was just five months old when her father was interviewed about why she had claimed asylum. The claims of all three children were dismissed on the grounds that the credibility of their parents’ applications had already been held to be lacking in credibility.
In the case of a Nigerian woman who feared that her daughter would be subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM), one of the reasons for dismissing the child’s claim was that the mother had failed to disclose in her application that she had applied for asylum in Italy. As the mother’s credibility had been dismissed in an earlier application, ORAC stated:
It follows that there is no credible objective basis to the fear attributed to the applicant by her mother.
In the combined appeal of the other two children, there was Continue reading “Assessment of Credibility in Protection Claims from Children”
Jenna Cains is an outreach worker with the Integration and Support Unit of the Edmond Rice Centre.
The term Aged-Out Minor (AOM) is used to describe a separated child who has turned 18 years old and is now an adult in the eyes of the State. There is no family celebration for these young people though. Upon turning 18 a Separated child’s life changes dramatically.. They are moved out of Dublin to a new city, losing their circle of friends and supports; they change school; they move from a residential setting or even a foster home to a mixed-sex adult hostel; they lose their social worker and any other support service they were engaged with in Dublin. In the past, separated children were housed in single-sex hostels and some of the AOMs in Waterford would have come from these types of minor accommodation. In 2010, the Health Service Executive (HSE) began to phase these hostels out. Separated children living in these hostels were a tight-knit community. A lot of the young people were known to support each other. They were involved with the same volunteer groups and support services and spent a lot of time together. At just 18 they are forced to start again in a new city, picking up the pieces of a life they have no control over. Only now they are mainstream adult asylum seekers. The prospect is so terrifying that some Separated children chose to abscond before their 18th birthday rather than face the prospect of turning 18 in the ‘system’. And make no mistake, as terrifying as this is, one AOM described the move from Dublin to Waterford ‘as bad as the move from Africa to Ireland’.
AOMs started ‘officially’ being moved to Waterford from Dublin by the Reception & Integration Agency (RIA) and the HSE in 2010. However there were relocations before that and the city already had a number of ‘unrecognised minors’, or those under the age of 18 who were placed directly in to adult accommodation. The Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, in conjunction with the Health Service Executive, may have made an inaccurate age determination.
The process of relocation to Waterford differs for each young person, ranging from smooth to Continue reading “Aged Out Minors in Ireland: Who in the world loses everything when they turn 18? Separated children in Ireland”
Dr Muireann Ní Raghallaigh, Lecturer in Social Work at University College Dublin.
Over the past ten years or so, when we have heard about separated children, it has generally been in rather negative contexts: reports of inadequate services, of teenagers being accommodated in unsupervised hostels, of young people disappearing from the ‘care’ system, of concerns about trafficking and of deportations of ‘aged-out’ minors. Likewise, when the foster care system is discussed in the public sphere, the discussions are often quite negative. Indeed, very recently, foster carers got particularly bad press during the Children’s Rights Referendum.
It is only within the last two years, that the two ‘topics’ – separated children and foster carers – have really come together in any significant way. Until then very few separated children lived in foster care. The majority were cared for in unregulated hostels that were not staffed by professionals. This situation received ongoing criticism from numerous organisations, including the Irish Refugee Council. Over a number of years the HSE began closing hostels and moving separated children into family placements – foster care and supported lodgings. (Supported lodgings are a less intensive form of foster care designed for children aged 15 and over.). This change in policy was welcomed by a multitude of service providers and was seen as allowing separated children to be provided with care that equates with their Irish counterparts.
Over the last year, I undertook research on separated children in foster care/supported lodgings and had the privilege of being able to interview foster/supported lodgings carers, separated children and stakeholders. Having been involved in this field in various capacities for over a decade, it was heartening to learn that the new system, while not perfect, is working well for many separated children and for their carers.
Indeed, the interviews with the foster carers shed light on a group of individuals Continue reading “Foster care for separated children in Ireland: A positive policy development”
Samantha Arnold, Children’s and Young Persons’ Officer at the Irish Refugee Council and is organiser of today’s blog carnival, which forms part of Human Rights in Ireland’s blog contributions to Human Rights Week 2012.
There have been several calls for the introduction of an independent system for guardianship in Ireland at the international, European Union and domestic levels. These have included: the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child; The UN High Commissioner for Refugees; The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings; Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; European Network of Ombudspersons for Children; The European Commission; and the National Children’s Strategy in Ireland. In addition, the Irish Refugee Council, working together with other children’s rights organisations, has long campaigned for independent guardianship for separated children.
Currently under Section 4 & 5 of the Child Care Act 1991, under which separated children are taken into care by the HSE, there is no provision for legal guardianship. Under Section 4 of the Act, the parent or former legal guardian of the separated child retains guardianship (rights) of the child in the country of origin. Section 5 of the Act, is used in cases of homelessness; again there is no provision for a legal guardian. The Child Care Act was, however, amended in 2011. Under Section 17 of that Act a legal guardian is defined as a representative appointed through the District Courts. When the HSE utilise Sections 4 & 5 of the Child Care Act 1991 and do not provide a legal guardian for separated children through the district court (as is currently the case for most separated children), the HSE may be in breach of their obligations under the Act as amended. Moreover, social workers acting as legal guardian may run afoul of the law as they have never been given authority to be the legal guardian through the district courts.
Practically speaking, most separated children that the Irish Refugee Council supports have no legal guardian looking after their best interests in relation to their general care and immigration needs. It may thus be asserted that in line with current practise, not only is the care of separated children not equitable, but the lack of legal guardianship and appropriate care assessments means separated children are not receiving the most basic care and support that is required by law.
In February 2011, the Irish Refugee Council launched the Irish National Report Continue reading “Identifying and Filling Gaps: Supporting Separated Children”
Samantha Arnold is the Children’s and Young Persons’ Officer at the Irish Refugee Council.
The Irish Refugee Council has reached the 6 month mark of an Independent Advocacy Pilot which centers on supporting separated children in finding their own voice by matching children with advocates who act as mentors. The objective of the project is to promote the young person’s integration into Irish society and his/her understanding of the asylum process. The pilot project includes advocates in Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, Cork and Galway who each act on behalf of one or two young people.
On 12 December 2012 the Irish Refugee Council will launch the midterm review of the Independent Advocacy Pilot and on the same day will partner with Human Right in Ireland to run a blog-carnival addressing issues relating to separated children in Ireland. Young People and Advocates involved in the project will contribute as well.
To submit a blog, please send an intention to submit a blog with a brief synopsis of what you hope to cover to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. The deadline for final submissions is 7 December 2012.