‘No specific statistics’ detailing number of children born into direct provision asylum seeker system

The State does not know how many children have been born into the 15-year-old system of direct provision — the long-criticised regime of institutional living for asylum seekers.

The latest available figures from the Reception and Integration Agency, a unit of the department of Justice, shows there are at least 1,225 children living in Direct Provision Centres around Ireland. The figures include 60 female and 61 male “unregistered” children.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said unregistered children are:

  • children born in centres where a parent has not yet made an asylum application
  • children who arrive into the State independently and who do not have an application for asylum
  • children whose parents have chosen not to make an asylum application

However, the spokesperson said there are no specific statistics for children born to parents while living in RIA accommodation — in operation since 2000.

Asked if the State knows how many children born in Ireland have claimed asylum, rather than how many are born in direct provision, the Department of Justice said the figures are not ‘readily available’.

Sue Conlon of the Irish Refugee Council said given that RIA has detailed statistics on every aspect of asylum seekers’ lives, it was difficult to believe there are no figures for children born in the system.

“I think it is important to know, as these are children whose lives, from the very beginning, are affected by living in circumstances where their parents don’t have complete control of even the most basic of things, such as the feed their baby receives,” she said.

Ms Conlon said parents in direct provision who have children are often told they can’t get any support for them until they register an asylum claim for them — even when the parents don’t want to put them through the asylum system.

Figures for the number of people living in State-funded direct provision centres fluctuate month to month.

Latest figures from September show there are 4,815 people “live on the system”. In 2012, 1,789 of people living in direct provision were children.

An IRC report published that year stated: “With the length of time in the asylum process ranging from less than a year to more than seven years, these children spend a significant proportion of their childhood in direct provision accommodation.

Regardless of their or their families’ status, these children did not choose to come to Ireland and they have no control over their circumstances.” The Government’s direct provision McMahon report, published in the summer, made a wide range of recommendations to reform the system.

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