The White Paper on ending Direct Provision is great for the future but what about the present?
ActionAid Ireland strongly urges the government to adopt the recommendation from the Catherine Day Advisory Group on giving permission for the right to remain to people two or more years in the system.
It has been just under two weeks since the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth launched a White Paper on ending Direct Provision. After reviewing the document in detail, ActionAid Ireland broadly welcomes the publication and wants to commend the Irish Government on the ambitious roadmap it has developed to end this abhorrent system.
ActionAid wants to praise the leadership of the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth for ensuring the White Paper is grounded in a human rights approach. Creating a system that is person-centered is crucial for upholding the dignity, respect, and privacy of asylum applicants. We want to stress however, such a system can only be plausible and genuinely grounded in a human rights approach if applicants are aware, conscious of, and are given the ability to challenge power and hold the state and other duty bearers accountable.
What should be commended
The White Paper has many aspects of which it should be commended for. These include but are not limited to:
- The focus the White Paper has on the rights of women is hugely welcomed by ActionAid. We are very happy to see clear commitments made to ensuring women have access to quality sexual and reproductive healthcare and free period products.
- Ensuring that there is a specific focus on the needs of children, young people, families, and people with particular vulnerabilities is welcomed. Often international protection applicants can be considered to form one homogenous group. Therefore, ActionAid is glad to see the commitment to vulnerability assessments to determine the level of support each individual applicant needs. A move away from a paternalistic, one size fits all system is a move in the right direction.
- The importance being placed from the outset on early integration for all applicants is a positive shift from the current system. And is clearly committed to by ensuring applicants will be limited to a maximum of four months in temporary reception accommodation.
What about the present for Direct Provision?
The White Paper however is not without its faults; ActionAid would raise particular concern that although the Paper has ambitious aspirations for those claiming protection in the next few years it does nothing to negate the hardship of those living in the system today. There are over 7,000 people currently living in Direct Provision. Many have been here for more than five years due to processing being hampered by extensive bureaucratic delays. When Direct Provision was first established the length of time an applicant was expected to be in the system was six months. We must do more for the people the state has failed.
Right to remain if here over two years
We would urge the Government to adopt the recommendation from the Catherine Day Advisory Group on giving permission for the right to remain to people two or more years in the system. The Government have formally recognised that the current system is not fit for purpose. But, has shown no commitment to those people who this week still face the challenges they did the week before the launch of the White Paper.
Amplify Our Voices
ActionAid Ireland, through the generous support of the St. Stephens Green Trust, are about to undertake a new project working with people currently living in Direct Provision, the Amplify Our Voices project. We aim/intend to support people who have experienced the system firsthand to lead some of the discussions around putting the White Paper into practice. And challenging some of its shortcomings. ActionAid believes that the ability of rights holders to advocate for their own inclusion in and creation of political and public alliances heightens their ability to participate in and influence policy dialogues and decisions. For this reason, ActionAid has developed the Amplify Our Voices project. It is a two-year programme that will work with women located within Direct Provision centers in the south of Ireland.
Finally, in the past two weeks we have heard the reaction to the White Paper that it heralds a ‘seismic shift’ in Ireland’s approach to the asylum system process. If this shift is to indeed become a reality, it needs to address the existing cracks in the system as opposed to painting over them. For that reason, we once again urge the Government to address the back log in the system and adopt the recommendation from the Catherine Day Advisory Group.