The legacy of Direct Provision: Report highlights challenges faced by people moving out of Direct Provision
Posted On: July 20, 2016
Press Release, 20 July 2016
A research report that launched today highlights the multiple challenges faced by former asylum seekers in attempting to make the transition from Direct Provision to life in the wider community.
Having endured years of living in the Direct Provision system, known to negatively affect mental health, child well-being and family life, people are largely left to fend for themselves once they receive their status. People must navigate a complex array of systems as they attempt to move out of institutions that have systematically disempowered them for many years.
This research, which involved interviews with former asylum seekers, attempts to document some of the difficulties people are experiencing and to inform the Government and relevant stakeholders of what needs to be done to ensure that this group are properly supported as they build their lives here in Ireland.
While the current housing shortage clearly creates a huge challenge in being able to access accommodation, there are also other hurdles that are particular to the situation of those leaving direct provision.
Dr. Muireann Ní Raghallaigh, one of the report authors said,
“Asylum seekers receive only €19.10 while in Direct Provision and for the majority this continues to be their payment as they look for accommodation following the granting of their status. Although discretionary exceptional needs payments can be made available, most of the study’s participants did not receive them. As a result people were often forced to borrow money and get into debt in order to be able to move out of direct provision”
Blessing Moyo, a former asylum seeker who worked as a peer researcher on the project, spoke of her own current difficulties in transitioning from Direct Provision,
“If you mention to the landlord that you’re on rent supplement they want nothing to do with you, which to me is discrimination. We all need houses for our family. It’s not my fault that I am not working. I have been denied the right to work for seven years now. The government have to do something about this or it will get worse.”
Those transitioning also faced significant barriers in accessing education and employment. For example, the years spent in Direct Provision are not counted in terms of eligibility for Back to Education Allowances. Also, finding even low-skilled employment proved extremely difficult, given the participants had not been permitted to work for many years and thus had no experience in the Irish context.
Dr. Ní Raghallaigh said,
“What we are seeing now is the negative impact of people being left in the Direct Provision system for far too long. This system impedes integration and has in some cases created a legacy of dependency and difficulty in terms of transition. The state has a duty to ensure that those granted status have the necessary resources and supports to integrate into local communities and to overcome the many difficulties they face because of the Direct Provision system.”
She went on to say,
“There is immense resilience within the refugee community. This resilience can be harnessed with the help of designated supports throughout the asylum process, at the point of transition from Direct Provision, but also beyond that, if necessary.”
The report calls for those leaving Direct Provision to be provided with support akin to that provided to programme refugees. In particular, there is a need for a resettlement grant and a specific point of contact for provision of support and clear information about entitlements.
Caroline Reid, Communications Officer with the Irish Refugee Council, 085 858 5510
- The research involved interviews with 22 former asylum seekers, 12 of whom had transitioned out of direct provision and 10 of whom were attempting to do so. The interviews took place between May and August 2015.
- The preliminary findings of this research were submitted to the government’s Taskforce that met last year to address the situation of people not being able to move out of DP after they got their papers. While there have been some positive changes arising from the Taskforce, including an information booklet and a proposal that the Citizen’s Information Board would hold occasional multi-agency information sessions in DP centres, a lot more is still needed.
- The research on which the report was based was funded by the Irish Research Council’s New Foundations (Engaging Civic Society) funding stream and involved a partnership between the School of Social Policy, Social Work & Social Justice, University College Dublin, the School of Social Work & Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin and the Irish Refugee Council. Researchers from the two universities, Dr. Muireann Ní Raghallaigh, UCD, and Maeve Foreman, TCD, worked in partnership with peer researchers from the refugee community, Gabriel Wenji Mendes and Blessing Moyo, to explore the experiences of people transitioning from direct provision to life in the wider community. Maggie Feeley and Clíodhna Bairéad also worked on completing the final report.
Key Recommendations arising from the report:
- This report echoes numerous other studies in calling for an end to Direct Provision. In the meantime, to help prepare and support those living in DP prior to transitioning, improvements to the system need to be made, including the provision of self-catering facilities, increased payments, quicker processing times for asylum applications, permission to study and to work, increased psychosocial supports, and more support for cultural integration.
- Those exiting Direct Provision with legal status should be given the same level of support that Programme Refugees receive on arrival in Ireland – otherwise state policy and practice is suggesting that they are somehow less deserving.
- Upon receipt of status, people should be provided with clear written information, on what is needed to make the transition out of the Direct Provision system. Further verbal information, through a designated person, should also be available.
- Once granted refugee status, subsidiary protection or leave to remain, people should be provided with a realistic timeframe for exiting Direct Provision hostels, especially given the current housing shortage.
- The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) should provide a standard reference to those exiting Direct Provision, in order to help them obtain rental accommodation.
- Ensure that Rent Supplement is paid in a timely manner.
- As soon as people receive their papers, they should be entitled to normal social welfare allowances instead of the Direct Provision payment.
- A resettlement grant should be provided. It should be large enough to pay for a rental deposit, first month’s rent, and household essentials, such as bedding and kitchen utensils. Overall, every effort needs to be made to ensure that the process of transitioning out of Direct Provision hostels is poverty-proofed, especially considering that people involved have lived in poverty for many years while in the Direct Provision system.
- An interdepartmental resettlement office should be established to provide both programme refugees and those exiting Direct Provision centres with the necessary supports to ease the challenges of transition and integration.
- Customised educational and preparation for employment programmes, such as that provided by the Irish Refugee Council in collaboration with the National Learning Network need to be available to everyone leaving Direct Provision.
- People exiting Direct Provision should have immediate access to the Back to Education Allowance. The criteria for eligibility need to be altered to ensure this.
- People exiting Direct Provision should be provided with clear guidance and assistance in relation to the family reunification process. Family reunifications should be completed in a timely manner. Reunified families should be offered psychosocial support to help rebuild relationships, if necessary.