There has been mixed reaction to the publishing of a report on ending the direct provision system. It’s recommended in the report that the government implements a new system by 2023. The report suggests that asylum seekers be given “own-door accommodation” via the local authorities. And that the waiting times for the state to process asylum applications should be reduced to six months.
Doras said it “welcomes the report” as it offers “a more humane, dignified approach” to the asylum process.
But the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI), was more critical. It noted that although the report “makes groundbreaking recommendations”, a greater commitment is needed from government ministers in relation to ending direct provision.
“Not fit for purpose”
The Report of the Advisory Group on Direct Provision was chaired by Dr Catherine Day and published by the government on Tuesday 21 October. Formed in October 2019, the group was tasked with the “development of a long-term approach” in dealing with asylum seekers.
It found that the current system of direct provision “is not fit for purpose”. What’s more, the COVID-19 pandemic “has added emphasis to the need to end the current system”.
Given this, it calls on the government to “step up its direct responsibility for providing humane reception conditions”. This is partly because it expects Ireland to process roughly 3,500 asylum applications on a yearly basis. As part of this, it recommends that decisions on asylum applications should be made within six months. And a six-month deadline for deciding on appeals should be introduced. The report points out that this “would ensure the conclusion of almost all cases within a 12-month period”.
The group also argues that the government should end the “congregated and segregated accommodation of applicants” in direct provision centres. Instead, the government should provide asylum seekers “own-door accommodation”. This is to be sourced through local authorities. Along with this, asylum seekers should be given access to the same social assistance payments as Irish citizens. This should be done in order to “enable applicants to live in the community”.
And the government should begin the “transition to the proposed new system as soon as possible”.
“Groundbreaking” but more to be done
In a press release reacting to the report MASI said the report makes “groundbreaking recommendations” in relation to accommodation as well as health and welfare. But it also suggest that some parts of the report “need further consideration”.
MASI argues that the recommendations regarding housing could leave asylum seekers open to discrimination when dealing with landlords and letting agents. It also insisted that reference to “own-door accommodation” in the report with no explanation of what that entails “is unhelpful”.
The six-month deadline for processing applications was also welcomed by MASI. But it highlighted that it appears there are no “consequences” for the government if it “fails to meet this deadline”. Similarly, MASI stressed that the trauma of asylum interviews is not mentioned by the report’s authors.
MASI also detailed that the report doesn’t suggest giving asylum seekers full access to the labour market. Without enabling such access MASI argues that it “fails to see how the Irish State can end Direct Provision while maintaining restrictions on the right to work”. As a result, group said it was “reiterat[ing] our call for unrestricted access to the labour market”.
Overall, MASI said more needs to be done by the responsible parties who oversee direct provision and the asylum process. It closed its statement by writing:
We need to see immediate change in attitude from the government because we have heard and had enough.
“A more humane” approach
But the publication of the Day Report was welcomed by Doras, a Limerick-based NGO which works to protect the right of migrants in Ireland. In a press release Doras said it “welcomes the report as well as the recommendations made in it.
John Lannon, CEO of Doras, argued that the report “appears to take a more humane, dignified approach” to the issue of asylum seekers. He also said that the suggestions will “save the state millions”.
Going on, he contended that the provision of “own-door accommodation” is the way forward. This is because it “offers a roadmap away from the current for-profit system of institutionalised living”. But for this to be a success, he insisted that local authorities shouldn’t “restrict access to employment and educational opportunities”. And that they don’t fall back on “congregated, badly serviced accommodation settings”.
Lannon went on to say that Doras believes the report “is the basis for a positive change” regarding how asylum seekers are treated by the government. And that the “new approach” outlined in the Day Report “is urgently needed”.
Doras has previously criticised the direct provision system as well as the lack of “own-door accommodation” for asylum seekers. In relation to a reported rape of an asylum seeker in a direct provision centre, the group had called the government’s response “inadequate and inappropriate”.
Featured image via Gov.ie – Screenshot