Taoiseach accused of making 'disingenuous' and untrue statements about Direct Provision

Taoiseach accused of making 'disingenuous' and untrue statements about Direct Provision
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with members of the FG parliamentary party at the annual FG autumn think-in. Pic: Orla Hearns

The Taoiseach has been accused of making "disingenuous" and factually incorrect statements about the Direct Provision system for asylum seekers.

Leo Varadkar said the Direct Provision system was "not compulsory" and that those in the system "can leave at any time".

"Direct Provision is something that we offer asylum seekers. It's not compulsory. You can leave at any time. We now allow asylum seekers to work so, actually, many do work and leave and provide for their own accommodation.

"Many also live with friends and family so Direct Provision is something that we offer people. It's accommodation. It's food and board. It's spending money as well. It's not that it's compulsory," the Taoiseach told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

Mr Varadkar also dismissed suggestions that it was time to end the controversial system, which has been in operation for almost 20 years, stating that there was no viable alternative offered.

"I often hear people say that but end it and replace it with what? We are not in a position to give a house or an apartment to every asylum seeker. We are just not in a position to do that and it's also important to bear in mind what Direct Provision is," he said.

However, executive director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) Liam Herrick hit out at Mr Varadkar's remarks as "disingenuous" and factually incorrect.

"It is disingenuous for the Taoiseach to say that people seeking international protection can leave at any time.

"In fact, if they leave for more than three days they lose their place in the system. Ireland has a duty under international law to provide protection to those who are fleeing persecution and to protect their rights here.

"It is disappointing that, after twenty years of direct provision, this is the level of analysis around this system - which clearly facilitates grave violations of human rights - that exists at the top," he said.

Mr Herrick said that the Department of Justice should be coming up with a solution which provides protection for people, not one which violates their fundamental rights.

"Indeed they would do well to listen to the viable solutions which the Irish Refugee Council and other organisations working in this area have been suggesting for years. Some of the recommendations of the McMahon report also remain unimplemented.

"The Taoiseach is wrong to suggest that many asylum seekers are leaving Direct Provision. In fact, many are stuck in the system due to the housing crisis and this is having a knock-on effect. We are also deeply concerned about the rights violations of asylum seekers who are being accommodated in emergency accommodation," he said.

The Irish Refugee Council also criticised Mr Varadkar's comments as being factually incorrect and pointed out that alternatives to Direct Provision have been repeatedly ignored over the past two decades.

"Leo Varadkar's comments that people can leave Direct Provision at any time are wrong. Weekly allowance of €38.80, medical card and other supports are only given if you actually live in Direct Provision.

"People are not entitled to social housing and can only work if they have waited nine months for a decision. There is a striking lack of ambition in his comments. Alternatives have been consistently suggested by ourselves and others but no new approach tried in 20 plus years," said a statement.

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