Direct Provision amounts to institutionalised poverty and social exclusion for children says new report from the Irish Refugee Council

Posted On: 18 September 2012

A new report published by the Irish Refugee Council catalogues over 10 years of enforced child poverty, malnutrition and social exclusion caused by the institutional system of accommodating asylum seekers, known as Direct Provision.   The report, ‘State sanctioned child poverty and exclusion:  the case of children in accommodation for asylum-seekers’, is launched today (18/9/12) by CEO of Barnardos, Fergus Finlay. 

Fergus Finlay says: “The history of institutionalised care for children in Ireland is one of tragedy, abuse and neglect.  The system of Direct Provision is another example of our failure to protect some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Of the 5,098 residents in Direct Provision, over one third are children.  These children spend a significant proportion of their childhood in Direct Provision accommodation.  The key themes identified by the report relate to concerns over the safety and overcrowding of the physical environment, family life, social exclusion, barriers to accessing and participating in education, diet and access to play space and significant protection concerns.

Chairing the launch, Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, says: “This welcome report demonstrates the failure of the state to vindicate children’s rights set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the family life rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of children in the asylum system.  The picture painted of the present situation must give rise to concern, and indeed anger.

“The recommendations called for in the report are practical and achievable.

Samantha Arnold, Children’s and Young Persons’ Officer with the Irish Refugee Council says: “Both Fine Gael and Labour committed to reviewing the system of Direct Provision in July 2010. So far, those commitments haven’t been met. ”

“The conditions that children in Direct Provision live in do not comply with the Children First Guidelines. Despite not having chosen to live in Ireland or seek asylum here, the children living in and growing up in Direct Provision are subjected to enforced poverty, discrimination and social exclusion.”

The report makes a number of recommendations including ensuring that heating, hot water and cleanliness are guaranteed, children have access to private toilet facilities, children are not exposed to inappropriate behaviour, including that of a sexual or violent nature, and children are able to fully participate in the Irish education system


Further information: 

Sharon Waters                        085 8585 510 /


  • Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, Irish Refugee Council CEO, Sue Conlan and Children’s and Young Person Officer Samantha Arnold are available for interview.  Contact Sharon Waters at 085 8585 510.
  • You can download the report at
  • Under the Direct Provision system, asylum seekers are accommodated in hostel-style accommodation – usually former hostels, hotels, or caravan parks – where they receive three meals a day.  Asylum seekers are not permitted to work but are given a weekly allowance of €19.10 per adult and €9.60 per child, a rate that has not changed since the system was introduced over 12 years ago.
  • There are 5,098 asylum seekers in Direct Provision accommodation.  1,789 of the residents are children
  • The system of Direct Provision was originally intended as a temporary solution to house applicants for approximately six months. However, the average length of time in the asylum system is four years.[1]  There are also cases where asylum-seekers have been in Direct Provision for over seven years
  • In his 2012 report, Geoffrey Shannon, Special Rapporteur on Children, highlighted the ‘real risk’ of child abuse in Direct Provision where single parent families are required to share with strangers and where families with teenage children of opposite gender are required to share one room.
  • The Irish Refugee Council is Ireland’s only national NGO working for and on behalf of asylum seekers and refugees in Ireland.
  • Ireland has opted out of the Council Directive 2003/9/EC laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers.  Ireland and Denmark are the only countries to opt out. 


[1] Written Answers – Asylum Support Services. Wednesday 18 April 2012 Dáil Éireann Debate Volume 761 No 3: Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter: ‘[I]n total, there are approximately 5,215 persons overall currently residing in RIA accommodation.  In relation to the specific statistics sought, there are 539 persons residing in the direct provision system who made their applications for international protection less than one year ago; 630 between one and two years; 770 between two and three years; 945 between three and four years; 812 between four and five years; 670 between five and six years; 397 between six and seven years; and 272 more than seven years ago’.