Event to Discuss Parenting in Direct Provision

The IRC, in conjunction with NUI Galway, held a discussion on the issues parents face in the Direct Provision system in Ireland. The public event was hosted by UNESCO child and family research centre, the Irish Centre for Human Rights and the School of Law at NUI Galway. Professor Ray Moore of the University’s Irish Centre for Human Rights chaired the event.

Speakers included:

  • Helen Ogbu, Masters Student
  • Samantha Arnold, Children and Young Person’s Officer with the Irish Refugee Council
  • Sade, former resident at Lisbrook House, Galway.

Helen Ogbu began by discussing her MA, which used qualitative research to study 16 families living in direct provision. Her main objectives were to explore the experience of parents in Direct Provision and perceptions of parenting in Direct Provision. Helen gave us vivid descriptions of parenting in the type of accommodation provided by using original quotes from the families she worked with. The types of stressors that affect a person’s life in Direct Provision are mainly associated with the environment, prolonged stay in the accommodation centres, poor diets, lack of both recreational and study space and restrictions for those in education. Finance is another stressor, with asylum seekers earning just €19.10 a week for an adult and €9.60 for a child. Helen gave us an insight to the ‘institutionalised’ way of life an asylum seeker is faced with living in.

Her recommendations were to review:

  • Direct Provision policy and the allowance given to asylum seekers
  • The provision of proper family accommodation
  • Universality of all benefits such as child benefit
  • More support services and programmes
  • Ratification of the EU asylum reception directive to allow people to work after a certain period of time
  • For direct provision is abolished.

She concluded her presentation by saying that Direct Provision is an unsuitable long-term life, is a real example of state enforced poverty and, with regard to parenting, violates some of the UNCRC rights of the child.

For further information read ‘Parenting in Direct Provision: Parent’s perspectives regarding stresses and supports

Samantha Arnold discussed her recent report for the Irish Refugee Council, ‘State Sanctioned Child Poverty and Exclusion’ , which highlights numerous faults with the system and makes recommendations. The main areas focused on in her report are:

  • The Safety of the Environment
  • Overcrowding and Family Life
  • Food and Malnutrition
  • Exclusion and Poverty
  • Play and Development
  • Education and Participation.

Samantha discussed the application procedure for asylum seekers and how most are faced with long delays in having their case heard. She also explained that a person who has been refused a declaration as a refugee and who is not eligible for subsidiary protection may be granted leave to remain in the State, at the discretion of the Minister for Justice and Equality, usually on humanitarian grounds.

The recommendations that were made in her report are similar to Helen’s. They are to ensure:

  • Basic Clean and Safe Living Conditions
  • Private Toilet Facilities for Families
  • Adequate Space for Both Play and Homework
  • Parents must have separate rooms to their children
  • Families and Children can Choose, Prepare and Eat Healthy Foods
  • Asylum Seekers who have been in Ireland for More than 12 months be able to work in order to provide for their children
  • Increased Social Welfare Payments for all Families and Reinstate Child Benefit for all Children in Ireland
  • Economic means to buy school supplies and attend school trips, to allow full participation in school
  • Asylum children are Allowed to Host Non-Resident Friends in a Safe Environment
  • Cultural and Religious Needs of Families are Considered Before Dispersal
  • Government 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 Direct Provision. Direct Provision needs to be replaced by a more fair and equitable system.

For further information read ‘State sanctioned child poverty and exclusion

Sade, is an asylum seeker who has been in the system for the past 5 years and 9 months with her young daughter. In this time they have been moved 3 times: from Hatch Hall, Dublin, to Lisbrook House, Galway, and now, with the recent closure of Lisbrook, Sade and her daughter have been forced to move to Newbridge, Kildare.

Sade explained how her daughter’s schooling has been affected by the move and how children should have the right to uninterrupted education. They were given no notice to prepare for the transition from Galway to Kildare, let alone a choice of where they may like to live following the closure. She stated that there is a more negative than positive impact for people living in Direct Provision as it is a forceful system.

She made the point that many people in the system are well educated, with third-level qualifications from their home countries, but their skills are wasted here as they cannot work or go on to study further.

Children are affected badly as, if they are moved, it is up to the community welfare officer to provide an extra grant to cover new school uniforms and books. This is at the officer’s discretion, which can mean children are refused the materials they need. She spoke of one family who were refused the funding to buy uniforms for the new school,  and were told to enrol their children in a school with a similar uniform. Not only is this impractical and unfair, it leaves children with an inferiority complex. Often they have to share a room with their parents and compare themselves and their lifestyle to friends. Sade pointed out that many of these children are not just passing through; if they are born in Ireland, they may want to return to Ireland as it is now their country of origin. However, many in direct provision are subjected to thinking that Ireland is more of a curse than a blessing. Sade concluded by saying that children are the leaders of tomorrow and we need them to lead by our good example. Her final plea is that we change the system of direct provision.

Senator Trevor O’Clochartaigh voiced his views on Direct Provision being a system that is privatised and profit-making. Senator O’Cloghartaigh said there is ‘no oversight’ of Direct Provision and that elected representatives cannot visit a DP centre without prior notice being given, ‘that is a total disgrace’.

Derek Nolan TD of the labour party also contributed to the discussion by saying that the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 will not help anyone in the backlog of the system. Deputy Nolan appealed to those people who support change in the Direct Provision system to write to their representatives expressing that support.  This is very important because Deputy Nolan said at present he receives on the whole negative correspondence when he expresses his support for a change in the asylum system. When he first raised the issue in public, in the Galway Adverstiser’  he received ‘ the most viscous response, hate mail with really horrible comments…for us as legislators we need your support.’

The question that closed the discussion was: What can we do and can we do it quickly? The recommendations made by all three speakers were for a new system to be put in place.