82 child welfare incidents referred to asylum agency's family services unit last year

82 child welfare incidents referred to asylum agency's family services unit last year

The latest annual report from the Reception and Integration Agency shows that 82 child protection and welfare incidents were reported to its Child and Family Services Unit in 2017 as the numbers accommodated by RIA since the introduction of State-Provided Accommodation in 1999 exceeded 59,830 persons.

The RIA also reveal that 63 reports were made to gardaí about suspected victims of people trafficking; 502 contracted bed spaces were lost at various times in Direct Provision centres around the country because of cases of chickenpox; and that the number of applications from people seeking asylum and the numbers in the Direct Provision system increased.

The 2017 annual report shows 82 referrals to the Child and Family Services Unit, which has a manager seconded from the TUSLA, and an executive officer and a clerical officer.

According to the annual report: "These cases included: family reunification by the Separated Children’s Team; accidental injury to children while playing; and hospitalisation of expectant mothers where a named guardian was identified. The Unit also monitors all incidents particularly those not referred to Social Work Team, TUSLA, in order to offer support and to build parenting capacity."

The report also outlines how during 2017, 63 suspected victims were reported to RIA by An Garda Síochána, and that of these, five were international protection applicants.

According to the report: "Over the course of the year, the number of persons in our accommodation centres increased from 4,425 to 5,096. This increase masks a significant churn in the number with approximately 1,070 persons leaving and 2,135 entering State provided accommodation.

"It is important to note that not all those leaving State provided accommodation would have done so because they received a form of status."

It said the number of international protection applicants accommodated by RIA at the end of the year was 5,096, an increase of 671 persons, or 15.7%, from the same date in 2016.

RIA spent over €67m in respect of the accommodation of international protection applicants in 2017, an increase of just over 5% on the 2016 outturn, while it also accommodated 2,135 new international protection applicants presenting to the International Protection Office (IPO) in 2017 - an increase of 22%.

"During 2017, the overall numbers accommodated by RIA since the introduction of State-Provided Accommodation in 1999 had exceeded 59,830 persons," it said.

In addition, 179 destitute nationals from nine of the 13 States which have joined the EU since 2004 were assisted by RIA to voluntarily return home in 2017, at a cost of €44.237 - a 9.6% decrease in persons repatriated compared to 2016.

At the end of 2017 RIA had a contracted capacity of 5,503 in its 34 centres around the country.

The average duration of stay by applicants has shortened and the number of people staying for extended periods has fallen, but at the end of 2017, 204 people had still been in Direct Provision for at least seven years, including 42 in one facility, the Towers in Dublin and 40 in Mosney.

Nine centres were affected by chickenpox in 2017, with an effective total loss of 502 contracted bed spaces at various times of the year.

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