Children living in direct provision regularly feel discriminated against and experience racism according to a new report. The Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO), also found that the children had their experiences and views of Ireland “shaped” by living in direct provision.
And this resulted in feelings of isolation and of being different.
Last year the UN called on the Irish government to end the direct provision system.
Published on 7 July, the Direct Division report was based on a consultation with 73 children living in direct provision centres around Ireland. Their rights under international law as well as their experiences of living in Ireland were focused on by the OCO. The children were also asked what changes they would make to “help them feel accepted”.
In his introduction to the report the children’s ombudsman, Dr. Niall Muldoon, wrote that its findings are “quite stark”.
Problems in school
It’s pointed out that many of the children “felt discriminated against in school”. They “frequently experienced” use of racial slurs directed at them by other students. According to the OCO,
Children had experienced being called racist names such as “Black monkey” and “a chocolate”. A number of participants talked about the use of the “N” word by their peers in school and to those who asked if they could use the “N” word.
Some children of the Muslim faith also reported that they were victims of Islamophobic comments. In one case a girl told the OCO that wearing her hijab “made her feel unsafe” so she stopped wearing it:
People are racist here and there are many attacks and stuff so it’s better to go with the flow and not wear the headscarf…it was sad and my mom was against it [removing the hijab]. She was like “you just have to believe in yourself and God” but my Dad was like “it’s for safety”.
The OCO also divulged that children related that “teachers did nothing to stop racist stereotyping”. In some cases teachers and students engaged in “Covert racism”. One girl told the OCO,
They don’t exclude you, you know exclude, I mean they just don’t include you.
All of this, the OCO writes, “made them feel excluded from normal school life”, with both “their peers and teachers” having “contributed to this exclusion”.
The children also pointed out that in direct provision they are forced to live with a “lack of space and privacy”. Some of them reported seeing “cameras everywhere”. And in other cases “their rooms were often entered and examined by staff with no notice”. The OCO asserts that “All of this prevented the children from feeling that they lived like their Irish peers”.
And some of the children “expressed fear” when they heard about anti-direct provision protests being held around the country.
Dr. Muldoon argued that even if the current government does dismantle the direct provision system, it will also “need to consider the wider systemic issues, such as racism and sectarian discrimination”.
Last year the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) criticised the direct provision system. It told the Irish government that it “is concerned at the continuous failure of the State party to provide adequate accommodation for asylum seekers”.
As a result, it recommended that the government “phase out” direct provision in favour of “an alternative reception model”.
Featured image via Wikipedia – Braca Karic