Watchdogs welcome plan for asylum centre probes

The Ombudsman and Children’s Ombudsman have welcomed recommendations that they both be allowed to investigate complaints by asylum seekers living in direct provision centres.

Watchdogs welcome plan for asylum centre probes

However, residents are still no clearer on how much longer they will have to stay in the centres, which have come under heavy criticism for the internment-type of regimes they run.

A report by the Oireachtas Committee on Public Service, Oversight, and Petitions has said the 4,364 adults and children living in the country’s 34 direct provision centres should have access to both Ombudsmen.

The committee also called for the centres and the Reception and Integration Agency to be brought under the remit of the Freedom of Information Act.

They made their recommendations after visiting centres and hearing from residents and migrant support groups over the past six months. Their highly critical report describes the direct provision system as “not fit for purpose”, particularly as it was intended as a short term measure but two thirds of residents were there more than three years, and one in five were there more than seven years.

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“The delay in processing the applications of residents is inexcusable, perpetrates inequality and ill-treatment at a State level, and leads to a systemic problem with the provisions of public services,” the report states.

It adds that the weekly allowances of €19.10 per adult and €9.60 per child are “insufficient, derisory, and have been eroded to the point of being insulting to residents”.

The committee wants the ban on asylum seekers having jobs reviewed and says families should be given self-catering accommodation, students should be allowed attend third-level education and Hiqa should be allowed inspect all facilities.

They added that there was an emerging problem with moving people out of direct provision. More than 300 people still in the system have been granted asylum but have no homes to go to.

However, the report stopped short of recommending an amnesty for all those caught in direct provision for lengthy periods of time.

Committee chairman Padraig Mac Lochlainn said they would wait for the working group on direct provision set up by minister of state for equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin to report on how the backlog could be tackled.

Mr Ó Ríordáin said the working group would report by the end of this month. He has said publicly that he wants the direct provision system radically reformed and favours allowing residents to work after six months.

Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon said the 1,453 children in direct provision were in danger of being institutionalised and he would welcome the powers to investigate their complaints.

The Ombudsman for Public Services, Peter Tyndall agreed.

“These people are often among the most vulnerable in our community,” he said. “They should have access to the same supervisory mechanisms and independent redress as everyone else.”

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