Three-year stay for 60% of State-housed asylum seekers

Almost 60% of asylum seekers in State accommodation have been there for more than three years, a new report has found.

Last year, Justice Minister Alan Shatter defended the direct provision system on economic grounds but admitted it was not suitable for long-term residence.

The ESRI/European Migration Network found that more than 4,800 asylum applicants were accommodated in the country’s 35 reception centres at the end of 2012; down from just over 5,400 residents in 39 centres in 2011.

Of the 4,800, 59% had been resident for over three years, 31% for over five years, and 9% for over seven years. Asylum seekers are prohibited from working while their applications are processed and receive €19.10 per week, or €9.60 for a child.

The accommodation centres include two system-built properties, 13 former guesthouses/hotels, nine hostels, and one mobile home site. All are managed and run by private entities under contract to the State.

The report highlighted problems with the direct provision system, including lack of privacy, overcrowding, insufficient facilities such as homework/play areas for children, and limited autonomy, particularly regarding food. NGOs and international bodies have concerns about the suitability of the reception system for long-term residence, particularly of children.

Last year, Justice Minister Alan Shatter defended the direct provision system on economic grounds but admitted it was not suitable for long-term residence.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Irish Refugee Council CEO Sue Conlan said: “Minister Shatter’s acceptance that direct provision centres are not suitable for long-term residence has to be followed by a commitment to draw a line under direct provision.

“A new single procedure for asylum claims will not address the needs of those currently in the system and is not therefore an answer to the acknowledgement that the current system has much too high a price both for the State and for those who languish in it.”

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