The Fifth Report of the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Geoffrey Shannon, submitted to the Minister for Children in February, was published this week (July 25 2012).
Having long campaigned on the risks posed to children by long-term institutionalisation in Direct Provision accommodation, we were pleased to see our concerns echoed by the Special Rapporteur.
The report called for research “…on the specific vulnerability of children accommodated in the system of Direct Provision and the potential or actual harm which is being created by the particular circumstances of their residence including the inability of parents to properly care for and protect their children and the damage that may be done by living for a lengthy period of time in an institutionalised setting which was not designed for long term residence.” (Fifth Report of the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection: A Report Submitted to the Oireachtas, p. 13)
The report also highlighted:
• concerns about the detrimental effect on children growing up in a form of institutionalised poverty with parents unable to adequately care for their children
• lengthy delays in the asylum system, calculated as an average of three years…giving rise to concerns about the welfare and development of children.
• the high number of child protection referrals relating to children in Direct Provision
• the wide variation amongst residents in such centres, with single parents sometimes required to share with strangers and families with teenage children of opposite gender sharing one room
• the absence of appropriate supervision and support leading to a real risk of child abuse. In September 2011, news came to light of a 14 year old girl in a centre in Mayo who became pregnant by a male resident in the same hostel
The Special Rapporteur included the following key recommendations in the report:
“The particular needs of children in the Direct Provision system should be examined with a view to establishing whether the system itself is detrimental to their welfare and development and, if appropriate, an alternative form of support and accommodation adopted which is more suitable for families and particularly children. In the interim, the state should implement without delay an independent complaints mechanism and independent inspections of Direct Provision centres and give consideration to these being undertaken through either HIQA (inspections) or the Ombudsman for Children (complaints)” (Fifth Report of the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection: A Report Submitted to the Oireachtas, p. 18)
The principle of the “best interests of the child” should be incorporated into Irish immigration and asylum law so that every decision should be taken to conform with that principle. The state should consider implementing into Irish law a requirement to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child when all immigration and asylum decisions are being taken…” (Fifth Report of the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection: A Report Submitted to the Oireachtas, p. 72)
In response to the publication of the report, Fiona Finn, CEO of Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre said:
“We are deeply concerned by the fact that one third of residents of direct provision accommodation in Ireland are children. Given that almost 60% of people spend three years or more in these residential institutions, the clear implication is that many children are effectively growing up in these centres, designed for short-term accommodation at best.
We agree with the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection that research is urgently needed to assess the vulnerability of children accommodated in this system and the inevitable damage resulting from long-term institutionalisation.
We also strongly support the recommendation that the “best interests of the child” should be incorporated into Irish immigration and asylum law so that every decision conforms to that principle; and that in the interim, the state should implement without delay an independent complaints mechanism and independent inspections of Direct Provision centres.
We call on the government to recognise the almost 2000 children living in direct provision by their status as children first, protection applicant second. We join the Special Rapporteur in asking that the State expand the remit of the Ombudsman for Children to include these children, affording them the same protection as their Irish counterparts.”
Nasc continues to work with our partners in the forum on Direct Provision to effect change in the system. For more on this campaign, please visit our Direct Provision page.
Click here to download the full report of the Special Rapporteur.
For coverage in the Irish Examiner (July 26, 2012), click here.