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Coalition fails to deal with asylum seeker crux

The Government has failed to get to grips with a broken asylum seeker system while the general public "could not care less", a leading academic claimed yesterday.

Liam Thornton, a lecturer in law and a director of clinical legal education in University College Dublin, said many asylum seekers living in Direct Provision had been left in a "shadow social welfare system", living off €19.10 a week, and facing years of uncertainty within a system operated by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA).

Mr Thornton was reacting to the publication in the media of previously unpublished inspection reports into Direct Provision centres around the country, which raised concerns over fire safety, hygiene standards and child protection concerns, among other issues.

Writing on website humanrights.ie, Liam Thornton said: "What many in human rights organisations suspect [or are afraid to admit openly] is that Irish society knows full well about the system of direct provision, the vast majority of the population could not care less. Politicians in the Dáil have said to me, over the years, their work on direct provision is costing them support. Not just a few votes here and there, but very noticeable support."

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Thornton said Justice Minister Alan Shatter was "washing his hands" of of conditions in Direct Provision, which was instead being run by RIA, a body without statutory footing.

"RIA is still very secretive. I would like to know a lot more about these individuals who are at the head of these companies."

Some support groups have claimed the State may have to issue a future apology to those in DP, similar to that offered to victims of Magdalene Laundries.

Yesterday’s Liveline radio programme heard condemnation of conditions within DP at a time when the State is paying millions of euro to the operators of centres.

Responding to a parliamentary question earlier this year, Mr Shatter said only one asylum seeker death since DP began in 2002 could definitely be attributed to suicide. Latest figures indicate 60 people living in DP have died, including two so far this year. Since 2002 the category with the highest number of deaths is the newborn to five-year-old age group, with 16 deaths.