A report published by the Experts Group on Provision and Support has stated that direct provision in Ireland should end by mid-2023. Laura Matjusaityte talked with a member of the Experts Group to outline the main aspects brought up in the report.
A report published by the Experts Group on Provision and Support has stated that direct provision in Ireland should end by mid-2023. The group led by Catherine Day, a former secretary general of the European Commission, was tasked with examining the current state of direct provision and making recommendations on necessary improvements.
More than one hundred pages long, the report examined the conditions of people living in direct provision centres and came up with a step by step plan aiming to create a new and better system of acceptance and inclusion of asylum seekers by mid-2023.
The current direct provision system has been used in Ireland over the last 20 years. The system was set up to accommodate people seeking international protection while their applications were being processed. As of the end of July there were over 7,000 applicants living in direct provision.
Fiona Finn, a member of the Experts Group and CEO of Nasc, an NGO supporting refugee and migrant rights, expressed criticism over the current system, saying that direct provision is “not fit for purpose and should end”.
In the current system all the residents are being provided with accommodations, usually set in shared settings, such as former hotels, hostels or guesthouses, prepared meals, or ingredients for meals and a weekly allowance of €38.80 per adult and €29.80 per child.
The report stressed that in some cases families and single adults were being housed in the same settings and some accommodations were lacking basic facilities, such as kitchens to cook their own meals.
The Experts Group outlined two main issues within the current system, the length of the time people spend in the system and the type of accommodations and support they receive while in it.
The main recommendations included a faster system to assess applications for the asylum seekers and humane reception conditions, such as appropriate housing.
“Reducing the length of time that people spend in the international protection process has always been a key priority for Nasc,” Finn said.
Recommendations aim to shorten the process of applications to up to six months, while under the current system it can take up to ten months to reach the first interview stage. The shorter process would ensure that almost all cases would conclude within a year.
“Generally no one should be waiting for longer than 6 months for a ruling on their first instance decision or a further 6 months (12 months in total) on their final decision,” Finn added.
Finn said that if the guidelines in the report would be followed this could speed up the applications process and “provide accommodations for about 3,500 people per year”.
Other suggestions include changing the current housing system into own-door accommodations, in which applicants would be given opportunity to rent accommodation within communities and would receive housing allowance similar to the current Homeless Housing Assistance Payment.
A state-owned reception centre would also exist. These reception centres would be used for new applicants within the first three months of their arrival.
The need for an active accommodation allocation service to find housing for asylum seekers will be crucial in ending the system of direct provision.
It is suggested that the current weekly allowance (€29.80 per child and €38.80 per adult per week) should be changed to give access to social welfare, and asylum seekers should be given a right to work immediately while they are awaiting for their application process to be finished. Under the current system applicants don’t have a right to work until they have been in the application process for nine months.
“The recommendations of this report reach beyond accommodation and the legal process and will have an enormous impact on the daily lives of applicants for international protection,” Finn said.
The experts group outlined the need to start reforming the system as soon as possible and gave a list of recommendations which could be implemented quickly. It includes increasing weekly allowance for people in direct provision, a right to work while waiting for a decision, ability to apply for driving test and license and access to mainstream schools in the communities for applicants aged five to 18 as well as access to higher education.
“It has taken two decades to get to the point where the government has committed to ending direct provision. However the work to make sure that the system it is replaced with is fair and equitable is only beginning,” said Finn, urging people to help in ending direct provision by contacting their TDs to show their support for the report.