The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) published its 2011 Annual Report recently. RIA is a unit of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS), which is itself a division of the Department of Justice and Equality. RIA is charged with providing accommodation and ancillary services to asylum seekers under the “Direct Provision” system.
The report makes for compelling, if disturbing reading, particularly in light of the revelations about the number of children condemned to spending their childhoods in residential institutions. We at Nasc have long known that the number of children spending years in Direct Provision (DP) was high, however it seems that we may have under-estimated the numbers actually involved.
Our concerns for children growing up in DP are numerous – and many of them were recently echoed by the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection in his 2011 report to the Oireachtas. You can read about this report and our response to it here.
The practical issues faced by those living in many direct provision centres are well-documented and include:
- substandard accommodation (36% of people live in pre-fabs or mobile homes)
- debarment from taking up employment
- lack of permission/facilities to prepare meals
- extreme poverty (weekly allowance of €19.10 per week per adult and €9.60 per child)
- very limited privacy, with residents often sharing rooms with numerous strangers with whom they may not share a common language and teenage siblings of different gender sharing rooms
- high levels of social isolation
- no access to independent complaints mechanism – residents are instructed to bring complaints first to the management, then to RIA
- risk of the spread of communicable disease – the 2011 RIA report reports the loss of 1014 bed spaces due to a chicken pox outbreak
- system originally established as a short term measure, that was twelve years ago
- residents live in these conditions for years on end
In addition, the psychological effects of long-term institutionalisation are a huge cause for concern, particularly for children who spend their childhoods in such centres. Dr Angela Veale, of UCC’s School of Applied Psychology was quoted in the Irish Examiner as saying:
The stories we are hearing from parents is they are very worried and concerned about their children. One child was reported as saying, “I do not have a home, I live in a hostel.”
Responding to the RIA Report, Nasc CEO Fiona Finna said:
We are deeply concerned at the high number of children living for protracted periods of time in the state-run institutions known as Direct Provision. Ireland needs to learn lessons from our past mistakes in its treatment of vulnerable children. We believe that the Direct Provision System is a Ryan report waiting to happen.
Irish Examiner coverage of this story is currently not available on their website but can be accessed here. RIA’s report in full can be downloaded here but these are some of the numbers which stood out to us. We think they speak for themselves: