Thomas Pringle TD

Thomas Pringle TD – Direct Provision And Tackling Hate

The commitment in many communities in Ireland to welcoming refugees was honoured last month when Ireland won an award from the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative for the community sponsorship Ireland programme. This pilot scheme follows the Canadian example, which has resettled more than 300,000 refugees over the past 40 years through community-led initiatives. Unfortunately, much uglier scenes have dominated the headlines in Ireland. Protests against the opening of direct provision centres, which hide their deep-rooted racism behind claims of concern for the well-being of asylum seekers, are a disgrace and it is our duty to call them out. However, we should not allow the actions of a few small groups to take away from the incredible work being done in many communities.

Fears surrounding the opening of direct provision centres are unfounded. I remember that concerns were raised in 2000 when a new centre was to open in Donegal town. I was at those public meetings and we decided we would have a welcoming committee to meet the asylum seekers. Not only were there no issues during the lifespan of the centre, but many of the residents went on to set up home in Donegal and make positive contributions to the community. The best way to counteract racism and hate is for the community to come together and welcome refugees.

Direct provision itself is unsuitable for anything other than a short stay. People on the left and right of the political spectrum are calling for an end to the system of direct provision, arguably for different reasons. We need credible alternatives, however. As the Government spending review shows, the number of people exiting direct provision accommodation is not keeping up with the rate of new arrivals. A 40% increase is predicted for 2019. Some 800 people, roughly 12% of residents, have had a decision on their status but cannot leave direct provision due to rental prices being at an all-time high. Ireland’s obligations under the reception conditions directive to carry out vulnerability assessments within 30 days of an asylum application being made have not yet been implemented. As of July 2019, not a single person has been identified as being vulnerable through a formal vulnerability assessment, despite the asylum population including victims of human trafficking, torture, people with HIV and those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder caused by living in war zones. Not one of those people, however, has been classified as being vulnerable according to the Department of Justice and Equality.

Four years ago, the McMahon report of the Working Group on the Protection Process and Direct Provision recommended the establishment of an independent investigation body which would carry out unannounced visits to centres. To date, this has not happened. The 1,531 asylum seekers in emergency accommodation, of which 290 are children, are in an even more precarious situation. The Refugee Council has reported food shortages and an inability to access medical cards and the weekly allowance. Some asylum seekers have been suddenly moved out of their accommodation to accommodate weddings in the hotels in which they have been housed. Others cannot access liaison services, which are essential for navigating an unknown system. The Government’s ongoing focus on temporary solutions has allowed this already dysfunctional system to grow to the point where it is now just not fit for purpose. The Minister of State has to examine what he is doing to deal with this problem as well.

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