‘Long past its sell by date and must be changed’; Fianna Fáil reveals radical plan to overhaul Direct Provision and make Ireland ‘more welcoming’ for refugees

“It’s simply not on”, says FF Dáil hopeful.

By Kim O’Leary

Fianna Fáil is pledging to finally reform direct provision and create a “more welcoming Ireland” for refugees and asylum seekers. 

And speaking to TheCity.ie, FF Dáil candidate Fiona O’Loughlin branded the current direct provision system ‘long past its sell by date”.

In a radical pre-election policy promise as the party competes for control of the Dáil, FF is proposing long overdue complete reform of the asylum system and to improve refugee accommodation.

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With just days until the voting public decides General Election 2020, FF is vowing in its manifesto to:

  • Provide €7million of increased resources for the hearing of asylum applicants and refugees to ensure the asylum process is speeded up.
  • Review the ‘National Standards for Accommodation’ every five years. 
  • Extend the remit of the Ombudsman so that he’ll have power to assess possible delays in processing applications for asylum.
  • Broaden the right of asylum seekers to work by reducing the waiting period from nine to six months.
  • Put in place a  €5million integration fund to help refugees and asylum seekers integrate themselves into local communities.
  • Enable asylum seekers to access driving licences.
  • Prioritise the use of Community Sponsorship Programmes as a way of housing and integrating refugees.

In her interview with TheCity.ie, election hopeful Fiona O’Loughlin, who’s standing in South Kildare, said: “The need for change is paramount. 

“Direct provision is an unnatural setting for refugees fleeing conflict and natural disasters. 

“Living in direct provision significantly interferes with the right to have one’s private family life protected.”

O’Loughlin has repeatedly raised her concerns over the current system in place for people living in direct provision centres around the country. 

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She told us: “We must be innovative in the way we integrate people in direct provision into Irish society. 

“We must be educating society on the reasons for direct provision centres and the reasons people are fleeing for a better life.”

O’Loughlin went on: “The current system of direct provision centres was established 20 years ago on a temporary basis. 

“It is now long past its sell by date and it must be changed to reflect the country we live in today.”

The Dáil hopeful said asylum seekers in emergency accommodation – hundreds of which are children – are moved around “like cattle”.

She said: “We are talking about men, women, boys and girls. 

“There are children who need and want to live their lives with dignity and respect, to be able to dream and to have a far better quality of life than they currently have.

“They reside in hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation where they can be shipped like cattle to alternative accommodation to make way for various events being held in the hotels. 

“They grow up in bed and breakfast accommodation and hotels where they must adhere to curfews.

“It’s simply not on.”

O’Loughlin revealed she had visited two Co. Kildare centres, The Eyre Powell and the Hazel Hotel, to meet with residents. 

“Most of them are frustrated – their drive deteriorates the longer they are in these centres,” she told TheCity.ie.

She insisted that Fianna Fáil can bring about the changes needed. 

“We have plans in place to help refugees and asylum seekers integrate and to apply for things like a driving licence. 

“We hope that Ireland will become more appealing and equal to all,” O’Loughlin said.

Her party’s manifesto states: “Our asylum system must reflect our values and our obligations to maintain the integrity of our borders.

“The current direct provision system fails to do that and is alienating communities across the island.”

In recent months, the Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition – which represents 23 organisations – warned the State that 1.4 million people will need to be resettled globally in 2020.

The organisation added that a “significantly enhanced and adequately resourced” programme was needed in Ireland. 

It also said the Irish Navy has rescued 18,000 people in eleven missions in the past year, according to Nasc, which defends the rights of refugees and migrants.

Fiona Finn, chief executive of Nasc, wants the political parties who form the next government to “follow through on their promises urgently” on refugees and asylum seekers. 

She told TheCity.ie: “These people have been through hardship and they should not have to experience additional hardship in finding accommodation and jobs if they should wish.

“The political parties who next form a government must follow through on their promises urgently. 

“Over 900 people have drowned attempting to cross the Mediterranean this year alone. 

“Ireland needs to step up and help.”  

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