Direct provision centres violating children's rights, study finds

Direct provision centres violating children's rights, study finds

The Skellig Star Hotel emergency direct provision centre in Kerry, which was closed after protests over the conditions in the centre.  Picture: Valerie O’Sullivan

A new study has claimed that direct provision centres and emergency accommodation centres for asylum seekers are violating children's human rights. 

The report detailed a number of potential breaches of children's rights, including the isolated location of the centres, the lack of self-catering, and the lack of study and family space.

The report was developed by master's research students in the Irish Centre for Human Rights in NUI Galway, in collaboration with the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (Masi).

It said that accommodation in isolated areas created barriers for children accessing specialist services, including mental health services and social care. 

The lack of proper food and nutrition in centres with no self-catering facilities also hampered children’s health and development, according to the report.

The high cost of educational materials, the lack of study space, and the inability to engage with extracurricular activities also created educational barriers for children.

The report also found that family life was inhibited by communal settings, which disempowered parents and there were limited opportunities for children to learn about their culture.

Child protection was another major issue identified in the report, and the statutory gap in child safeguarding measures in relation to emergency accommodation was a particular concern.

"The lack of Tusla involvement in oversight of centre management prevents effective data-collection on at-risk children," the report states.

The failure to conduct effective vulnerability assessments was deemed inconsistent with the State’s obligations under the EU's Receptions Conditions Directive. 

The lack of transparent vetting procedures for staff working with asylum-seeking children, as well as the staff not receiving training was another problem.

The complaint mechanisms were also analysed in the report. Centre managers were found to be the first point of complaint, and the requirement that this method be exhausted before complaints may be made to the Ombudsman or Reception and Integration Agency was deemed "wholly inappropriate where complaints may concern centre's staff".

"Asylum-seeking children are unable to enjoy their rights under domestic, European and international instruments to the same extent as Irish citizen children by virtue of their (and their parents’) immigration status," the report concludes.

The report also says that the incoming National Standards for Direct Provision, to be enforced from January 2021, will not fully protect children’s rights because they do not apply to emergency accommodation, do not provide strict enough guidelines to ensure asylum-seeking children are protected from abuse, and do nothing to remedy the structural poverty enforced by the system.

The students presented their report to the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, Roderic O’Gorman, yesterday and it was also submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

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