Direct provision is already a chapter in Ireland’s dark history of institutional living. More of the same fails us all. 

Direct provision is broken, condemned by politicians across the political spectrum, international organisations and, most importantly, by residents themselves. Geoffrey Shannon, the special rapporteur on child protection, called for it to be abolished in his recent annual report. Its failures have been vividly demonstrated through Melatu Uche Okorie’s book Hostel People and the TV show Taken Down. So how do we end direct provision, what is the alternative and how
do we get there?

Minister of State for Justice David Stanton repeatedly says he has not heard of a better system. These are some ideas.
In short, we need to shift to long-term, strategic thinking, and away from a reactive “managed emergency”-style system that relies on private operators. Even in the middle of the housing crisis solutions exist.

We then have to accept that providing asylum and accommodation is a positive and important part of being a modern democracy that respects human rights. An average of 2,290 people per year have claimed asylum in Ireland over the last 10 years. This is an entirely manageable number, but the majority have no means to pay for accommodation or family to rely on. Around 61,100 people have been accommodated in direct provision since 2000. If direct provision ends, something has to take its place. 

Responsibility should be shifted away from the Department of Justice. It does not have the knowledge of housing or sufficient power and influence in housing policy circles. The budget and control of accommodation for people seeking asylum should be ringfenced but mainstreamed into wider housing policy. Housing experts should be consulted and sought for input. Philanthropy, faith groups, developers and business should also be encouraged to become involved. Partnerships and consortiums that leverage the unique attributes of each will be crucial.

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