Plan to end direct provision will not be underpinned by legislation

Plan to end direct provision will not be underpinned by legislation

Minister O’Gorman said he is "open" to put the White Paper on ending Direct Provision on a statutory basis. Photo: Keith Arkins Media

The new plan for ending direct provision will not be underpinned in legislation and will see current contracts for centres extended.

The plan, unveiled by Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman today seeks to end the current system by December 2024, to be replaced with a state-run not-for-profit system of newly-built own-door accommodation centres, before moving asylum seekers into the community.

The Government has extended the timeframe from a number of key recommendations from the report of Dr Catherine Day, the former Secretary General of the European Commission who lead an advisory group on the issue.

Dr Day said the right to work should be granted to any applicant for protection who has not yet received a final decision on their application within three months. The Government's plan will see those entitled to seek paid work after six months. 

Likewise, Dr Day recommended the new system should be in place by mid-2023, not December 2024.

Mr O'Gorman noted that "it's clear as a policy, direct provision has failed" and resulted in the "institutionalisation" of those involved.

"Our capacity to end existing contracts will be predicated on the provision of new types of accommodation that we're proposing to deliver," Mr O'Gorman said.

We have set as a clear objective in 2021, and 2022, to move away completely from emergency accommodation.

"We have given the time period for the change is December 2024. Within that period, we may have to extend some of the existing contracts, particularly for some of the better quality existing centres."

Movement of Asylum Seekers Ireland (MASI) says that because the new proposal of a four-month stay in a reception centre will not be imposed through law "people might end up in the system longer with no way of holding the State to account if it happens, as has been the case with Direct Provision".

Mr O'Gorman says his "sense" is that, given how long legislation takes to go from drafting to passing "I wanted to get this white paper out now and begin the process, because particularly on the accommodation side of things it's going to take years to implement".

The Minister said he is "open" to put the plan on a statutory basis.

The new own-door centres, must have the capacity to accommodate 2,000 people across the country, at any one time, and information campaigns will be conducted at a national level and there will be localised information campaigns when planning for the centre begins.

This is hoped to counteract some of the false information and far-right campaigns which infiltrated local communities when previous centres were proposed.

The Minister says despite the ongoing housing crisis, he believes moving asylum seekers into own-door accommodation is feasible because of the government's "real focus" on housing and promise of an additional 50,000 social housing units in the programme for government. He said the "next set of loosening of restrictions should guarantee to see wider availability of construction".

There has been €225 million budgeted for operating costs this year across all departments involved and with 175m budgeted for each year after.

He pointed out that, over the last 20 years, direct provision has cost the state over a billion euros. "And what do we have, for all that money?" he added.

"We've no tangible assets with the system that everybody regards as not having delivered, only people who've gone through difficult experiences.

"The reception integration centres and phase two accommodation is estimated at between €450m and €670 million depending on land price and inflation."

An independent group will monitor implementation and will be "able to publicly sound the alarm" if the plan is delayed.

The Government is "very aware" it needs to improve the situation within the current system and says improved access to driving licenses, work and higher education have all been implemented.

Asylum seekers are waiting nearly 18 months for their applications to be processed by the International Protection Office (IPO) and the new plan seeks to deal with the backlog of current applications, with "a significant increase in budget this year" to make the system "more fit for purpose".

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