What’s the Story with ‘Direct Provision’?

Whenever we hear about refugees in Ireland the term ‘Direct Provision’ gets thrown around a lot. Politicians don’t like talking about it and activists love screaming about ending it. Must be important so. But what the feck is it?

Direct provision is the name given to the system for asylum seekers who enter our country.  The system is supposed to meet the needs of asylum seekers while they await decisions on their asylum application. Essential services such as medical care, accommodation and three meals a day at set times are provided. Sounds grand doesn’t it? But it’s really not.

The Irish government do not allow Asylum seekers to work. Even after EU policy stated that there’s a requirement for member states to allow access to the labour market. So instead of allowing asylum seekers to work, the government gives them a whopping personal allowances of €19.10 per adult, and €15.60 per child per week (wouldn’t even buy ya a pack of amber and 6 dutch). At Christmas you’d think the government might be a little bit sound seeing the season that’s in it, but no. They were given the 80% bonus on to their weekly allowances (That’s €16 if you can’t work out the maths). Most people were forced between having a nice Christmas dinner or buying presents for their kids.

On top of this, Asylum seekers are excluded from social welfare, social housing and third level education. Primary and secondary education is provided, but without college or a job to look for afterwards it all seems a bit hopeless. A child who achieves the necessary points for the course she wished to pursue, but had spent four years idle, is unable to afford University and forbidden to find a job that might someday, enable her to pay these fees. It all seems a bit baffling and nonsensical. 

The centres themselves are quite grim. Think the ‘magdalene laundries 2.0’ (some of the centres actually used to be magdalene laundries). The centres are placed in the middle of nowhere so the government can keep them out of sight and out of mind. 28 of the 34 centres are privately owned, too similar to the American prison system for me. This means that theres no common policy on the standard of living for people in these centres. Individuals live in rooms with several other adults, and parents often live in only one room with their children. Bathrooms are shared.

Asylum seekers live in what has been termed ‘enforced idleness’. Basically forced to do nothing while their applications are being sorted, most centres don’t even allow cooking your own meals. Religion and cultural identity are things Initially meant to be a short term solution for processing asylum ‘6 months’ they said. They were wrong. The majority of asylum seekers spend over four years in Direct Provision.

The lives of those who seek asylum in Ireland, are lives utterly in limbo. Imagine being forced to flee your country, witnessing the horrors of war and making the perilous journey to Europe, arriving and being treated this way. 

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Direct Provision, is a system that ultimately presses pause on the lives of asylum seekers, while the rest of the world, as well as their futures glide by. Yes they’re safe but it’s almost a sadistic way they’re treated when they arrive in the ‘most hospitable country in the world’.

Once you know what direct provision is it’s easy to see why people are going mad about it, and blatantly obvious why you never hear about it being discussed in the Dáil. Another shame of the nation, trying to be swept under the rug. I for one, want it to end.

By Siubhan O’Donnell

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