Direct provision ‘increases sex abuse risk’

Ireland’s direct provision system has been condemned for leaving asylum seekers and refugees at risk of sexual violence.

A report by the Rape Crisis Network Ireland examined experiences of asylum seekers and refugees who attended rape crisis centres.

It discovered more than half (52%) had experienced sexual violence perpetrated by multiple abusers.

The vast majority (93%) who used the services in 2012 came from African countries, while the rest came from an Asian nation.

Over the year, 54 asylum seekers and seven refugees attended rape crisis centres — 92% were women and 8% were men.

RCNI acting director Clíona Saidléar said some of the sexual violence happened in Ireland, pointing out that 82% of the survivors had been living in direct provision at the time they received counselling.

Ms Saidléar said they had not picked out those who had experienced sexual violence in Ireland because it would be difficult to highlight that in a way that would keep them safe.

Security forces in the countries they came from represented 46% of the perpetrators of sexual violence. For 40%, the sexual violence lasted for years.

For 5%, the sexual violence was perpetrated within rebel or government camps. As a result of rape, 14% of the female victims became pregnant and 67% are parenting the children.

According to the report, there were seven incidents of forced prostitution and or trafficking, which accounted for 10% of incidents. However, such incidents are likely to be under-reported.

An urgent concern identified by the report is that the direct provision system and living conditions is exacerbating survivors’ trauma and making them vulnerable to additional sexual violence.

Ms Saidléar said such people came to Ireland to be safe but had not found a haven here. “For us, it is unconscionable that we would continue with a system without reform and that, essentially, makes people vulnerable to revictimisation,” she said

As well as reform of the direct provision system, the RCNI is also calling for reform of the asylum process.

Counselling for almost one in three (32%) of those attending rape crisis centres ended because the survivor was moved from one direct provision centre to another.

Ms Saidléar said most cases of sexual violence were reported to the rape crisis centres.

However, there were a few cases where a child was involved that had been reported to Child and Family Agency Tusla and a small number of cases involving sexual exploitation and forced prostitution were being investigated by the gardaí. The minister of state at the Department of Justice, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, said he hoped to have the final report from a working group set up to examine the direct provision system by Easter.

Ms Saidléar said: “I know he is very keen to make changes in the system but, for us, Easter is almost too far away.” She added they had found rape crisis services to refugees and, in particular, asylum seekers had been affected by budgetary constraints since 2008.

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