Irish Refugee Council’s report on Children in Direct Provision

Report Summary

  • 1/3 of all asylum seekers living in Direct Provision in Ireland are children.  This is approximately 2,000. Time period in DP can range from less than one year to seven years.
  • Main issue areas in report: Safe environment. Overcrowding and Family Life. Food and Malnutrition. Exclusion and Poverty. Play and Development and Education and Participation.

Safe environment and Overcrowding and Family Life

  • DP is NOT a natural family environment. Residents live in confined spaces.
  • Often unhygienic living areas.
  • The centres do not have separate bathrooms, children then share communal bathrooms with grown men and women.
  • Children may live in a room with their entire family or share with other families and people who are of various ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds. Different genders may also share the same room.
  • Teenagers and young adults share room with their parents.
  • Children can be exposed to violent and sexual behaviour.
  • Long duration of stay and confined living space can lead to depression and mental health problems.
  • Child illness can also spread rapidly due to confined space.
  • Inadequate heating and poor insulation leads to health problems.

Food and Malnutrition

  • Lack of appropriate and nutritious food. Food available may not be suitable to cultural and religious beliefs of residents.
  • Parents cannot afford to subsidise children’s diet.  There are cases of malnutrition among children and expectant mothers. Children suffer from chronic gastric illnesses.
  • High level of fatty foods and a lack of vegetables and fruit.
  • Self-catering options continue to be reduced by RIA.

Exclusion and Poverty

  • No child benefit for asylum seeker children. Parents routinely must buy school books etc. from their €19.10 allowance.
  • Personal development of child impinged upon.  Children come from upheaval. The shape of the DP system – dispersals and transfers effects children’s coping mechanisms.
  • Witnessing and fear of deportation harms psychological development.
  • Insufficient access to resources means lessened participation in society. Centres are usually outside of towns, harming integration with local communities.

Play and Development

  • Little access to play areas or safe space to play. May be dirty, lack of toys which may be broken. Lack of preschool facilities.
  • Children cannot invite friends to play who live outside DP.

Education and Participation

  • Difficult to secure places for children in schools.
  • Difficulty with transportation to schools from DP centres.
  • No space in DP centres for children to do homework.

Recommendations

  • Ensure that heating, hot water and cleanliness are guaranteed in the accommodation centres .
  • Ensure that DP is a safe environment for children and that they are not exposed to inappropriate behaviour.
  • Ensure children have access to private toilet facilities.
  • Ensure families have adequate space – both play and homework areas.  Parents must have separate rooms to their children.
  • Ensure families and children can choose, prepare and eat healthy foods.
  • Allow asylum seekers who have been in Ireland for more than 12 months to be able to work in order to provide for their children.
  • Increase social welfare payments for all families and reinstate child benefit for all children in Ireland.
  • To fully participate in education there must be the economic means to buy school supplies and attend school trips.
  • Allow asylum children to host non-resident friends in a safe environment.
  • Cultural and religious needs of families must be considered before dispersal.
  • Government should conduct an independent inquiry to acknowledge and investigate complaints, grievances and child protection concerns reported by the residents, children, NGO’s and support agencies.
  • If these recommendations cannot be met children should be removed immediately from DP.
  • DP needs to be replaced by a more fair and equitable system