Direct Provision

One of the biggest ongoing issues in Ireland today is that of Direct Provision. A system that puts asylum seekers in accommodation upon their arrival here, Direct Provision has been in place for 20 years but it is only in the last few years that it has been given the attention it warrants. It has been called degrading and archaic by a list of critics that grows by the day. One of the most recent of that list to voice their criticism was Filippo Grandi, the Head of the UN’s Refugee Agency.

He said that he hoped that determination procedures would improve ‘to allow people to exit Direct Provision earlier.’ It was mild, diplomatic criticism that hardly hinted at what the system is capable of doing to the human spirit.

We attended a protest against Direct Provision outside the Dail last month. We listened to activists and spoke to Bulelani, a South African asylum seeker who has been in the system since 2017.

What is Direct Provision?

Implemented to remove refugees from Ireland’s welfare system, Direct Provision was only supposed to be a temporary form of housing when it began in 2000 – if one can call six months temporary. It certainly seems temporary when compared with how long veterans of the system have been kept in limbo. While accommodation is provided on a full-board basis (the cost of all meals, heat, light, laundry, tv, household maintenance, etc. are paid directly by the State), the Daily Expenses Allowance (formerly called a Direct Provision Allowance) weekly rate is only €29.80 for children and €38.80 for adults. It’s not uncommon for children to reach adulthood while still in the care of Direct Provision. As of September 2018, around 1600 kids were in the system that Niall Muldoon, the Ombudsman for Children, called wholly unsuitable for their development. It is common knowledge that it takes a toll on the health

The accommodation is shared and often restricting. Strangers bandied together in this makeshift manner can often form close communities but it does not replace the desire for privacy, for a space of one’s own. Attending college is hard for asylum seekers but there are schemes for people in Direct Provision to receive third-level education for free. Asylum seekers were not allowed to work until 2018. Now they can apply for permission if they have been waiting 9 months for a first instance decision. A first instance decision is ‘a decision granted by the respective authority acting as a first instance of the administrative-judicial asylum procedure in the receiving country.’ In other words, it’s the first hurdle presented in the process of being granted asylum, and it often takes significantly longer than 9 months to receive such a decision. Permission to work is valid for 6 months, after which the asylum seeker will have to apply again. Being granted permission to work does not bring an end to complications. One woman told The Journal that she could not open a bank account to be paid into because she didn’t have a passport or a driver’s licence. 

stem that puts asylum seekers in accommodation upon their arrival here, Direct Provision has been in place for 20 years but it is only in the last few years that it has been given the attention it warrants. It has been called degrading and archaic by a list of critics that grows by the day.

One of the most recent of that list to voice their criticism was Filippo Grandi, the Head of the UN’s Refugee Agency. He said that he hoped that determination procedures would improve ‘to allow people to exit Direct Provision earlier.’ It was mild, diplomatic criticism that hardly hinted at what the system is capable of doing to the human spirit. We attended a protest against Direct Provision outside the Dail earlier in the summer.

We listened to activists and spoke to Bulelani, a South African asylum seeker who has been in the system for the last 17 months.