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Direct provision

The conditions of asylum-seekers in direct provision were raised by Trevor O Clochartaigh (SF, agricultural) in an adjournment debate in the Seanad on 19th July (Seanad Eireann, Debates, 19th July 2013, 556-559).  Responding for the government, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan told senators that there were now 4,627 people in 34 centres.  He was speaking for the Minister for Justice and Equality, who accepted that ‘direct provision is not ideal and many residents spend too long there.  However, it is a system which facilitates the state providing a roof over the head of those seeking protection or the right to remain in the state on humanitarian grounds or other reasons.  It allows the state to do it in a manner that facilitates resources being used economically in circumstances where the state is in financial difficulty’. The minister proposed to develop a new legislative and administrative framework for processing current and future subsidiary protection applications.

 

Asked by Mick Wallace (ind, Wexford) about the recently expressed views of the Ombudsman on the treatment of asylum-seekers, the Minister for Justice and Equality told him that the Ombudsman was entitled to her personal opinions but he did not share them (Dail Eireann, Debates, 18th July 2013, Q534 [page ref. not yet available]).  He particularly did not share her equation with those of the residents of industrial schools or magdalene laundries.  All member states operated systems for dealing with asylum seekers which greatly restricted their right to welfare, work or independent housing and this state was at least on a par and often better than other states.  It was greatly misleading to characterize our treatment of asylum seekers with the subjects of abuse who had no protection in law.  Children in direct provision were protected in a number of ways, which he recited and had full access to judicial review.  Direct provision was not ideal and many residents spent too long there.  A 2010 value for money report found that a system of independent living would, apart from an asylum pull factor, double the cost to the exchequer.  There was no question but that the asylum system was slow, fragmented and needed reform, which is why he planned to to bring new legislation to government before the end of the year.

 

Meantime, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, gave to Denis Naughten (ind, Roscommon – S Leitrim) details of the costs of the direct provision system (Dail Eireann, Debates, 16th July 2013, 664 – 8).  The costs of the Reception and Integration Agency were as follows, with the end of year occupancy figures given:

 

2010 €79.1m         6,107

2011 €69.5m         5,423

2012 €62.3m         4,841

2013e €57.5m       4,616 (7th July).  

 

He also gave details of the current 4,616 by duration of occupancy, showing that 600 were in direct provision for more than seven years; and by nationality, the largest being Nigeria, 1,211; followed by Congo, 415 and Pakistan, 309.  He planned to bring an Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, with a new, enhanced text, to government for approval before the end of the year.  Asked separately about the numbers seeking protection in 2013, the numbers to end June were 465, compared to 449 for the same period in 2012.

> See also Seanad Eireann, Debates, 15th July 2013, 76-8.