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Commitments to end Direct Provision must begin with Budget 2021

By the end of 2018 there were 6,252 applicants for International Protection living in Direct Provision centres across the State, with centres reaching almost full capacity by December 2018. Since 2002, occupancy has consistently been over 70 per cent of capacity in Ireland’s reception centres. As at the end of November 2018, it was at 95.5 per cent. The largest centre, at Mosney in County Meath, has capacity for 600 people. In November 2018 it held 619, an over-occupancy rate of 3 per cent. Overcrowding also featured in six other centres, with one centre in Dublin over-occupied by 25 people.

Under Direct Provision as operated in almost all of these centres, asylum-seekers receive accommodation and board, together with a weekly allowance. Three reports published in December 2019 highlighted the conditions experienced by residents in Direct Provision and made a series of recommendations to improve their situation. The living conditions described in these reports are grossly inadequate and create health, safeguarding and child protection issues. Among the recommendations of one report (Doras) was the abolition of Direct Provision and its replacement with own-door, self-catering accommodation; increased allowances; increased access to transport; and increased access to health supports.

The report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality called for a move away from private operators towards the provision of accommodation and wraparound services through Approved Housing Bodies. Covid-19 has presented a particular issue for people in communal settings who were unable to socially distance or self-isolate. The allocation of funding for self-isolation facilities lacked the necessary oversight to ensure it was properly implemented and failed to take account of the fact that the disease has an incubation period and can be asymptomatic.

Social Justice Ireland welcomes the commitment in the Programme for Government to abolishing the Direct Provision system and moving away from the for-profit model. The capital and current allocation required must begin with this Budget, and look to move the c.4,000 households to safer accommodation with wraparound supports. Government must begin the process of abolishing Direct Provision and make sufficient capital and current allocations to begin moving people to more appropriate, owndoor accommodation.