The NGO Forum on Direct Provision: Protecting the health and welfare of protection applicants housed in residential institutions in Ireland.
Nasc is a founder member of the NGO Forum on Direct Provision. The Forum is a network of member organisations from all over Ireland, all of whom are committed to campaigning for changes that will protect the health and welfare of asylum-seekers and their children housed in residential institutions here.
The current members of the Forum include: AkiDwA, Barnardos, BeLonG To LGBT Youth Services, Crosscare Migrant Project, Cultúr, Doras Luimní, FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres), Galway Refugee Support Group, Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference Refugee & Migrant Project, The Integration Centre, The Irish Refugee Council, The Jesuit Refugee Service, Mayo Intercultural Action, SPIRASI, and Tralee International Resource Centre.
Asylum-seekers and their children often spend years living in an institutional setting that was designed to be a short-term solution. They are accommodated by the state in residential institutions, under a system known as “direct provision.” The standards of accommodation vary very widely in the 53 centres around the country. The lives of residents are governed by restrictive rules, for example having to eat in a canteen at certain times and not being allowed to cook or to have food in one’s room. Single residents share a room with several other adults, and parents live in one room with their children.
Residents to not have access to an independent complaints mechanism. The administration of the system is managed by a section of the Department of Justice and Law Reform called the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA). If an issue affecting the resident’s security or health and welfare arises, the resident has no option but to raise it with RIA, in the same government department that is assessing his or her claim for protection and residency in the state.
The health needs of residents are not safeguarded. Despite the fact that the state has a duty of care in respect of the health and welfare of residents, the Department of Health & Children has no role in the management of the system. It has been the experience of the members of the Forum that the RIA ignores the requests and recommendations of the health care professionals who contact them about the health of individual residents.
The NGO Forum believes that the state has a duty of care to those asylum-seekers and their children currently accommodated in state-run residential institutions. We believe that access to an adequate complaints mechanism is a vital element in ensuring that the state does not neglect that duty of care. Our collective experience of advocating for residents has convinced us that the complaints system currently available to residents falls far short of the requirements for an independent complaints mechanism, as outlined in the guidelines published by the Office of the Ombudsman. The Forum is seeking the immediate and urgent introduction of an independent complaints mechanism for the residents of direct provision, as an interim measure.
The members of the NGO Forum on Direct Provision believe that the system of so-called “direct provision” has an unconscionable human cost. We believe that long-term institutionalisation is harmful to asylum seekers, to their children, and to Irish society. The Forum is seeking the introduction of an alternative to the system known as “direct provision” during the lifetime of the new coalition government.
The NGO Forum on Direct Provision is a network of people who work with residents. The Forum was formed early in 2010. It originated in a group that met for many years as the Direct Provision Sub-Committee of Integrating Ireland, to share experiences in advocating with the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) on behalf of the residents in its care. After many years, the members concluded that the requests and complaints of the residents, even when supported by advocates from migrant NGOs, the medical profession and social workers, etc, were falling on deaf ears. We concluded that the only option open to us as advocates was to campaign for change.
The Forum welcomes new member organisations. Members are invited to attend the Forum’s planning meetings, usually once a month, which are kindly hosted by the Irish Refugee Council. Members who can’t attend meetings will be kept abreast of developments via the Forum’s email list.
Individuals who wish to support the campaign can help too, by visiting your local TD to ask him or her to support the calls for change described above… or by helping us to document the complaints pepole are afraid to make to the Department of Justice. Find out how here.
Related Links and Resources
- Click here to download a pdf of Nasc’s 2008 Research Report, “Hidden Cork: The Perspectives of Asylum Seekers on Direct Provision and the Asylum Legal System”.
- Labour TD Derek Nolan called for a comprehensive review of the direct provision system in Dail Eireann on 20 July 2011. Read his speech here.
- System needed for complaints by asylum seekers say groups, The Irish Times, 19 July 2011.