Since Frances Fitzgerald became Minister for Justice, we have been hearing a lot about the need to ‘do something’ about the direct provision centres. Minister of State at the Department of Justice Aodhán O Riordáin said that asylum seekers should be allowed to work after a certain period of time, a right asylum seekers are accorded in all but one other EU state, even though his minister is opposed to asylum seekers working. I suppose she is following the objection of successive ministers, worried it might make Ireland a ‘soft touch’. Indeed, in recent weeks we have heard scaring rumours about asylum figures ‘surging’ to a few hundreds; official Ireland is getting worried it is facing another ‘refugee problem’, even though it has ensured that asylum applications remain low, and acceptance rates are the lowest in the EU.
In reality we are talking about merely 4,000 asylum seekers housed in the utterly inappropriate direct provision centres, about which much has been written recently, even though they remain hidden from public view. Residents, many of whom have stayed in the hostels for many years, cannot determine where they live, are often forced to share rooms with strangers, and with their children, and are forced to eat unpalatable and monotonous food. Hotel managers often punish residents daring to complain. Women say they do not feel safe and the Children’s ombudsman Emily Logan has spoken publicly on behalf of the 1,600 children whose safety and chances of attaining second and third level education are severely compromised, even though she is legally barred from investigating issues relating to asylum and direct provision. Minister O Riordáin called the system ‘inhumane’ and even Ms Fitzgerald expressed her concerns. What Minister O Riordán did not say was that the direct provision system, cast as ‘costing the taxpayer too much’, actually benefits private Irish money making businesses running the asylum centres. Read more