A report launched at NUI Galway today calls for the human rights of children of asylum seekers to be respected and criticises the current direct provision system. The situation facing hundreds of soon to be displaced asylum seekers, residents of Lisbrook House in Galway, also came in for sharp criticism.
‘Parenting in Direct Provision: Parent’s perspectives regarding stresses and supports’ was written by Helen Ogbu, a graduate of the MA in Family Support Studies in the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway. Parents interviewed in the report felt that their mental health problems and those of their childrenwere increased by prolonged stays in the centres, the strain of living in over-crowded rooms, poor diets, unavailability of recreational and study space, and the educational restriction for older children.
She stated that: “Direct Provision is an unsuitable environment for children and families, that it is damaging to family life and that it is not in the best interests of the child.”Her report recommends that the policy of Direct Provision as it currently stands should be reviewed and that such communal accommodation should not be used for periods of longer than six months.
The report was launched at an event hosted by NUI Galway and chaired by Professor Ray Murphy of the University’s Irish Centre for Human Rights. Opening the event Professor Murphy stated: “Of the 5,098 residents in Direct Provision, over one third are children. These children spend a significant proportion of their childhood in Direct Provision accommodation. This report indicates a failure of the state to vindicate rights set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the family life rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of children in the asylum system.”
He added: “This is particularly shocking given the recent campaign on the amendment to the Constitution regarding children’s rights. In particular the situation for those children who have grown up and attend school in Galway, currently housed in Lisbrook House and who are to be scattered throughout the country give rise to concern on how this can be in the best interests of these children.”
The audience of students, members of the public and asylum seekers also heard from Sade, an asylum seeker who has been living in the direct provision system for 5 years and 9 months and Samantha Arnold of the Irish Refugee Council.
Samantha Arnold, Children’s and Young Persons’ Officer with the Irish Refugee Council Report has also recently published a report on the same topic entitled, ‘State sanctioned child poverty and exclusion: the case of children in accommodation for asylum-seekers.’ She said “Both Fine Gael and Labour committed to reviewing the system of Direct Provision in July 2010. So far, those commitments haven’t been met. Under the Children First Guidelines, the conditions that children in Direct Provision live in amounts to child abuse or neglect. Despite not having chosen to live in Ireland or seek asylum here, the children living in and growing up in Direct Provision are subjected to enforced poverty, discrimination and social exclusion.”
Samantha Arnold’s report makes a number of recommendations including ensuring that heating, hot water and cleanliness are guaranteed, children have access to private toilet facilities, children are not exposed to inappropriate behaviour, including that of a sexual or violent nature, and children are able to fully participate in the Irish education system.
For further information and copies of this report visit http://www.irishrefugeecouncil.ie/children-and-young-people/children-in-direct-provision-accommodation/attachment/state-sanctioned-child-poverty-and-exclusion