If you are an asylum seeker or refugee in Ireland then you will most likely be accommodated in a Direct Provision center. Here’s what you need to know about the service.
How does it work?
- When you arrive in Ireland as an asylum seeker, you will be given temporary accommodation in a reception center in Dublin while your application is assessed.
- From there, you will then be assigned to one of 39 regional Direct Provision centers.
- There you will receive three meals a day and a place to sleep as well as a small weekly allowance (€38.80 per week for adults and €29.80 per week for children).
- You may also be entitled to some help with clothing and other emergency needs.
- Nine months after your asylum application was lodged, you are entitled to apply for access to the job market, to seek some form of employment.
- In a direct provision center, you will have access to free medical care.
- Any children are entitled and expected to go to school from the age of 4-16. With the exception of Dublin, where the school is integrated into the temporary reception center, children go to regular schools in the surrounding area.
- University education is not usually free to asylum seekers.
The idea of Direct Provision
- Direct Provision was introduced as an emergency measure in 1999. It became a service in April 2000, originally to offer short-term accommodation for asylum seekers who were arriving in the country at the time; many as a result of the Balkan wars.
- 20 years later, the service still exists and many people are being kept in centers for several years at a time, a state of affairs which they say contravenes their human rights.
- According to the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES) Direct Provision “encompasses a range of State services, including accommodation, food, health and education directly provided to international protection applicants through all the relevant Government Departments and Agencies.” That means people are given a place to sleep and eat but many families are kept in one room and there are often no cooking facilities provided so basic choices of how to live are essentially removed from people.
- There are currently 39 centers in operation across the country. Seven are state-owned. Private contractors manage all of the centers. They are located in 17 counties in the country.
- Direct Provision centers are sometimes in hostels, bed and breakfast accommodation or private housing, they can also be in caravan parks and other temporary housing solutions.
- The budget for Direct Provision in 2019 was set for 70 million euros. However, In August 2019 the Irish government carried out a spending review and found out that they had overspent by more than 50% this year alone. In October they announced they would need to add another 50-60 million euros to 2019’s budget. For 2020 they are asking for more than 80 million euros to cover Direct Provision costs.
- According to IGEES in 2018 Direct Provision cost the Irish State 78 million euros (its highest level since 2010). In 2019 spending “could exceed 120 million euros.”
Why have costs gone up?
- According to IGEES there are more asylum seekers seeking accommodation. New arrivals in 2019 showed an increase of 40% compared to the previous year.
- The numbers of those leaving the accommodation has reduced. Asylum applications are taking longer to process.
- About 12% of residents in Direct Provision are recognized refugees but have not been able to find housing elsewhere.
- The system is now full to capacity and the Irish Government has to pay for private emergency accommodation which is averaging €100 per person per night.
- After a report commissioned by the government in 2017 (The McMahon Report), the quality of accommodation provided is being upgraded which is leading to higher costs.
Direct Provision in 2019
- In June 2019 there were 7,016 people using Direct Provision services. The forecast for the year is expected to be 7,700.
- After the McMahon Report, three Direct Provision centers in Ireland introduced an “independent living” scheme. This means that residents could obtain food and other products for personal use from a food hall using a cashless points system. Three more centers introduced this scheme in 2019 meaning that around 2,000 can access this scheme.
- The IGEES review found that about “60% of all occupants were in accommodation centers between 18 and 45 months.”
- There are seven male-only accommodation centers and one female-only accommodation center in Kerry.
Useful links for asylum seekers in Ireland
Irish Refugee Council: https://www.irishrefugeecouncil.ie/
Migrant and Refugee Rights https://www.nascireland.org/campaigns/asylum-process-direct-provision
The Irish national broadcaster RTÉ provided a video explaining Direct Provision in July 2019.