The draft programme for the coalition government between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party has outlined a plan to end the current system of Direct Provision.
As per The Irish Times, the newly-formed coalition has committed to abolishing the system within the lifetime of the next government – a key demand of the Green Party.
The programme for government is understood to say: “We are committed to ending the Direct Provision system and will replace it with a new international protection accommodation policy centred on a not for profit approach.”
Initially described as an “interim” system, Direct Provision – which became a formal policy in March 2000 – would provide accommodation for a six month period while people awaited an outcome on their application.
In the two decades since then, 64,594 people have passed through the system, with 600 people having been in DP for more than eight years and an average length of stay spanning 38 months.
In October 2018, there were 6,405 people living in DP, or which 1,778 are children.
Of these, 778 have received refugee status or “leave to remain” but are struggling to find somewhere to live in the midst of a housing crisis. An additional 1,531 people, including 290 children, are in 36 emergency-accommodation centres that have opened in the past year.
In the new draft programme for government published on Monday lunchtime, incoming ministers have assured that provisions will be provided for asylum seekers that "has the protection and promotion of human rights at its core," stating that "the current system needs to change".
Other measures set to be made within the justice area of the programme are the inclusion of hate crime legislation and a new national action plan on racism.
In his 2018 annual report, the former special rapporteur on child protection Dr Geoffrey Shannon repeated an earlier call for Ireland to “abolish” Direct Provision, which he says was “detrimental to children’s well-being and development”.
He also noted accounts of harassment and sexual violence against women.
“Witnessing domestic violence and living in such an environment can scar children emotionally, impact on their development and result in anxiety and aggression.”
In 2019, Tanya Ward of the Children’s Rights Alliance said human-rights abuses in the asylum system are “probably some of the worst I’ve ever witnessed in this country” while warning that staff in direct-provision centres risked becoming institutionalised themselves.
Main image by @sarahtoal