Direct Provision (Irish: Soláthar Díreach) is a system of asylum seeker accommodation used in the Republic of Ireland. The system has been criticised by human rights organisations as illegal, inhuman and degrading, while proponents argue that it ensures asylum seekers are housed and cared for, in accordance with international law. The system, operated by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of the Irish Government's Department of Justice and Equality, provides asylum seeker residents with accommodation free of charge and a living allowance. Asylum seekers in Direct Provision are usually entitled to state-funded medical care, and children have full mainstreamed access to the education system.
Direct Provision was originally introduced as an emergency measure in 1999. In 2002 there were almost 12,000 applications for asylum. At the start of 2014, there were 4,360 people in direct provision, with more than 3,000 people having been in the system for two or more years. At the same time, there were more than 1,600 people who have spent five or more years in direct provision.
There were 5,096 men, women and children, including 801 families, living in the 34 direct provision centres across 17 counties in Ireland by the end of December 2017.
Human rights concerns
The length of time people spend in Direct Provision has been criticised by human rights watchdogs, with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission calling the delays faced by asylum applicants as "systemic and pernicious."
In a court case taken against Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton and the Attorney General, Maire Whelan, a claim was made that Direct Provision was "inhuman and degrading", asserting that the system is illegal under both the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, and all other international human rights conventions that Ireland has subscribed to. This case was vigorously defended by the State on all grounds, including on the basis that it fulfills Ireland's obligations, that it is broadly in line with (and in many cases better than) the situation in other EU states, and that at a time of competing calls for finite resources, it was not feasible for the State to grant the right to work, access to full social welfare and access to the public housing and/or rent supplement to asylum seekers.
Delivering his judgement on 14 November 2014, Justice Colm Mac Eochaidh found against the appellants on the substantive point of "inhuman and degrading treatment", but struck down the rules at that time regarding unannounced room inspections; the sign-in requirement; the requirement to notify intended absence; the rules on visitors and the lack of an independent complaints procedure.Those points were subsequently addressed.
The Irish Government's Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Dr. Geoffrey Shannon, has called it "institutionalised poverty." Both adults and children in Direct Provision centres are given €21.60 per week. Some centres have cooking facilities, but the majority have canteen style eating halls. These have been criticised both for the quality of food, and for the attitude of the canteen workers when it comes to accommodating specific dietary needs. Many child asylum seekers have been sent here alone while some are born into the direct provision life and that is all they have ever known. In June 2014, there were more than 1,000 asylum cases waiting to be heard in the High Court. The Irish Refugee Council has reported that young people living in Direct Provision centres are more prone to depression and suicide, and in the case of three young people in particular, aged between 11 and 17, stated "for different reasons, these three young people have all expressed the view that they can’t see the purpose of living."
According to responses to parliamentary debates and the RIA, the majority of adults in Direct Provision have had their initial asylum applications rejected and are either appealing this or seeking to remain in Ireland under other criteria.
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