Efforts to improve Direct Provision since the publication of the McMahon Report in 2015 have been slow and patchy in nature. While some improvements have been made (increase in Direct Provision allowance, the introduction of the, albeit, limited right to work, modest expansion of selfcatering facilities) in the experience of the Irish Refugee Council, the challenges faced by residents in Direct Provision remain enormous. We meet people each day who are worn down by a system which, taken cumulatively, makes ordinary life impossible for long periods of time. In our view, changes to the
system must begin with a much more radical vision for an alternative way to accommodate people who seek protection in Ireland. The fact that Geoffrey Shannon, the special rapporteur on child protection, has called on Ireland to abolish Direct Provision and that the Ombudsman has said it is not a suitable long-term solution for those waiting on an protection claim, should alone be enough to bring about wholesale change. We should start with the vision of what we want and work backwards rather than incremental improvements to an existing system.

There are 6,497 people living in Direct Provision as of April 2019. This is a modest and manageable number for the State, yet the way in which we accommodate people creates substantial cost to the State. Our reliance on the private market has failed. It has meant a decrease in supply at a time of rising demand has pushed the State towards the costlier option of emergency hotel accommodation and has left people arriving in Ireland isolated and distressed in hotel rooms around the country. The system isn’t working for anyone, but there are alternatives. Persistent criticism of Direct Provision has been met with the response that better alternatives do not exist. While it will take time to properly design and implement an alternative system, there are numerous models for better accommodating people while they wait for their application.

No reception system will be adequate while delays continue which is why a new system for reception must also consider the need to properly resource the international protection system so that delays are drastically reduced. The Irish Refugee Council works every day with people living in the Direct Provision system. The lived experience of residents should be the start for considerations of change. The length of time spent waiting, the indefinite nature of that wait, the overcrowding, the inability to cook or live a normal family life, the idleness, the isolation, the difficulty accessing services – all of these combine to make Direct Provision a very difficult, and in many cases, a very painful experience.

The Irish Refugee Council is calling on the Government to begin a process of review with the goal of designing an alternative reception system for international protection applicants so that Direct Provision can end.

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