The introduction of the National Standards for Direct Provision Centres is an important and very positive step in reforming the accommodation of people seeking international protection in Ireland. They provide a strong framework and starting
point for improving the lives of people seeking asylum in Ireland. We acknowledge what has obviously been a long and time-intensive process in developing these standards, led by the Government, but with NGOs and other actors giving crucial input. The Irish Refugee Council were invited to participate in the group developing the Standards. We respectfully declined this opportunity due to a lack of staff capacity at the time of asking and also because we believed that this process would be better led by an independent body. We now take this opportunity to offer our feedback on the standards.

The National Standards will place a significant burden on service providers. In our opinion, many of the current Direct Provision centres will not meet the Standards nor will management of some of those centres be willing, or qualified, to implement the Standards. The second, and arguably more difficult part of this project, is therefore to attract non-profit providers to consider providing accommodation. The Irish Refugee Council have already begun work in this area and will continue to do so. 

One of the reasons why direct provision accommodation is unsuitable as a means of accommodating people seeking asylum presently is precisely because responsibility has been outsourced to private actors. Two serious problems stem from this. The first is an absence of expertise and knowledge in respect of the psychosocial needs of people seeking asylum. Private actors are profit-motivated and, while we recognise that this is a legitimate aim in other contexts, in the context of the international protection process, it can mean that the long term best interests and human rights of residents are not the primary concern of the provider. It may also mean that private actors generally do not possess expertise or experience in social care.

The second problem is that private actors are not bound directly by the international human rights and constitutional rights obligations which apply to the State. Despite improvements in the provision of accommodation which, we hope, the National Standards will introduce, it remains the case that the outsourcing of accommodation and the direct provision model itself falls short of the highest standards of human rights. Remedying a model which is not fit for purpose requires a commitment to a rights-based approach to the accommodation of people seeking asylum and the elimination of the out-sourcing of public obligations to private actors. Finally, the Standards, while a positive step, do not include reference to important elements that would create a complete alternative to Direct Provision in its current form. 

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