Justice committee calls for ‘fundamental and ambitious reform’ of Direct Provision and asylum process

Justice committee calls for 'fundamental and ambitious reform' of Direct Provision and asylum process

The system of Direct Provision accommodation for asylum seekers is “not fit for purpose” and the “flawed” international protection process needs fundamental reform, the Oireachtas justice committee has said.

The committee’s report, informed by committee hearings in May and June, has been welcomed by Nasc, the Irish Refugee Council and the Immigrant Council of Ireland.

Committee members found the current system of “shared, institutionalised living fails to fully respect the rights to privacy and human dignity of those placed in these centres”.

The report of the all-party group of TDs and Senators found “significant issues identified with the system as a whole”, including inadequate supports and services that do not cater to the needs of vulnerable individuals arriving in Ireland; long delays in the single application process; issues with accessing the labour market; and issues relating to children in the direct provision system.

The report makes 43 conclusions and recommendations, in particular a shift towards “own door” accommodation units for individuals and families; the involvement of approved housing bodies (AHBs) in providing accommodation and support services for protection applicants; and moving away from the current reliance on commercial and for-profit running of direct provision services across the country.

The report also recommends significant changes in how the direct provision and protection application systems operate, including supports and services within direct provision, right to work issues, treatment of children in direct provision and integration of applicants.

Committee chairman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said: “Over the course of our engagements, it became abundantly clear to the committee that the Direct Provision system is flawed and in need of fundamental and ambitious reform or, preferably, replacement.

“The committee, therefore, is of the view that an expert group be established to conduct a comparative analysis of best practices in other jurisdictions that may be adapted for implementation in Ireland.

“A copy of this report and recommendations has been sent to the minister for justice and equality. The committee looks forward to working proactively and productively with the minister to address issues in the direct provision system in the future.”

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, said: “We strongly welcome this report. The Committee heard from a spectrum of organisations and people. Most powerful was the evidence of those actually living in Direct Provision.

“The report is a clear vision of how to improve our treatment of people seeking asylum: what needs to change and improve. Importantly it also represents a clear cross-party agreement on this approach.”

Fiona Finn, CEO of Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre, strongly welcomed the committee’s support for “the immediate implementation of the National Standards and the clear recommendation that HIQA be named as independent inspector of direct provision centres”.

Ms Finn added: “It is imperative that the State does not backtrack on the commitments made to improving the living conditions of international protection applicants in the McMahon Report.”

Brian Killoran, CEO of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, welcomed the committee’s interest in exploring the specialised needs of victims of trafficking.

Mr Killoran said there is a “short-term requirement for self-catered, private rooms within the system and a longer-term plan for a model of sheltered housing which specialises in trafficked sexually exploited women”.

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