Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Equality, Integration and Immigration Fiona O’Loughlin TD has criticised the Government for continuing to ignore the significant challenges facing asylum seekers living in Direct Provision.
Deputy O’Loughlin made the comments after discussing the issue with delegates at the Ógra Fianna Fáil Summer School in Galway.
Deputy O’Loughlin said, “Direct Provision was intended to be a short-term solution to prevent widespread homelessness among asylum seekers. However 20 years later the centres still remain open and grave inequalities have emerged within the system down through the years. The Government has done little to address these significant inequalities which are having a detrimental impact on the lives of asylum seekers.
“There are currently almost 5,000 asylum seekers living in Direct Provision. One third of them are children. Only 3 of the 43 Direct Provision centres across the country are actually purpose-built. There is major disparity in the standard of services on offer. The accommodation is substandard for many and children are denied access to suitable play areas. The asylum seekers living in these centres feel like they are in a prison like environment and feel disconnect from the community.
“Ireland has one of the lowest success rates when it comes to integrating asylum seekers into society. This is no surprise considering the environment asylum seekers are forced to endure in Direct Provision centres. Many cannot find suitable work and there are considerable barriers in place preventing people from accessing education. This is having a detrimental impact on their lives.
“Depression and mental health problems significantly impact on those living in Direct Provision. The rates of depression are up to 5 times higher than the wider community. Despite this, people living in Direct Provision do not have access to proper mental health services. This results in people becoming institutionalised, damaging their health, welfare and life chances.
“The end goal must be to close down the Direct Provision centres and enable asylum seekers to integrate into the wider community. I understand this cannot happen overnight, but the Government has been far too slow in alleviating the pressure placed on asylum seekers.
“Whilst the confirmation at the beginning of the year that the Ombudsman can receive complaints from residents living in direct provision is to be welcomed; nonetheless we need a more robust inspection process for private firms operating Direct Provision centres to ensure services are up to standard. The residency requirement for education should be reduced from 5 to 3 years, as is the case for the wider community. We also need to see significant investment in mental health services,” concluded Deputy O’Loughlin.