Direct Provision's Impact on Children: A Human Rights Analysis

Nov 12 2020 Posted: 09:35 GMT

Seven of our LLM graduates have today launched a report entitled ‘Direct Provision’s Impact on Children: A Human Rights Analysis’, which they researched and authored during their partnership with the Movement of Asylum Seekers (MASI) through the Irish Centre for Human Rights’ Human Rights Law Clinic

The report analyses how children’s human rights are being impacted upon by Ireland’s reception system for asylum seekers, known as ‘Direct Provision’. The authors, Róisín Dunbar, Lauren Burke, Neasa Candon, Meghan Reid, Sien Crivits, Stacy Wrenn and Angelica Shilova, presented their report to the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, Roderic O’Gorman yesterday, on 11 November, with the aim of assisting him to end the discrimination that segregates and demeans children seeking asylum in Ireland, violating their rights guaranteed under international, European and national frameworks. 

The report’s foreword is written by Emily Logan, Adjunct Professor at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway, and former Ombudsman for Children and Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. Logan notes that this year marks the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and she states: ‘It is heartening to see young people taking such a genuine interest beyond their immediate scholarship to seek to influence and vindicate the rights of children in this state’.

The report highlights the wide-ranging rights violations caused by the system of Direct Provision and the related ‘emergency accommodation’. The students argue that children’s rights are breached where, for example:

  • Accommodation in isolated areas creates barriers to accessing specialist services, including mental health services and social care. 
  • Lack of proper food and nutrition in centres where self-catering facilities are unavailable hampers children’s health and development.
  • The prohibitive cost of educational materials, the lack of study spaces and the inability to engage with extracurricular activities create barriers to accessing education.
  • Family life is inhibited by communal settings which disempower parents in their child-rearing, and there are limited opportunities for children to learn about their culture from their parents.
  • Vetting procedures lack transparency, there is inadequate regulation of staff training in child protection and Tusla’s lack of involvement fails to properly address potential risks to children. 

According to the NUI Galway students, 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, where living standards and access to services are even worse than Direct Provision centres.
  • They do not provide strict guidelines to ensure the protection of asylum-seeking children from abuse whilst in Direct Provision.
  • They fail to acknowledge the unsuitability of communal education for children and do nothing to remedy the structural poverty enforced by the system.

The students submitted an earlier version of their report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, influencing the Committee’s recently published List of Issues Prior to Reporting. The Committee has requested that Ireland provide information to it on special protection measures for asylum-seeking, refugee and migrant children, including to replace the system of Direct Provision.

Sociologist and activist Evgeny Shtorn, who conceived of the research idea stated: "This was one of the most useful collaborations I've had in the years of campaigning against the segregation which is Direct Provision. What has been done here, is an elaboration of a solid, robust and well-grounded argument as to why Direct Provision needs to become a matter of the past. This is a fruitful collective action, where our expertise as activists has been fiercely supported by scholars of the Irish Centre for Human Rights." 

This report forms part of a larger project by the LLM students during the 2019-2020 academic year to raise awareness about the Direct Provision system. The project ‘Ask about Direct Provision’ was conducted to make Direct Provision a key issue for the General Election 2020. The aim was to gather responses from election candidates on their position on Direct Provision. Responses are documented on our website: https://askaboutdirectprovision.wordpress.com/.

These projects were conducted under the supervision of Dr Maeve O’ Rourke through the Human Rights Law Clinic at the Irish Centre for Human Rights. The Human Rights Law Clinic introduces master’s students to the concept of ‘movement lawyering’ and allows students to contribute their skills to community-based movements for social change. 

About MASIin their own words: ‘MASI is the collective Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, a platform for asylum seekers to join together in unity and purpose. As a group of people directly affected by the system of direct provision and as people who are currently undergoing the international protection application process, we, unlike experts and NGOs, are uniquely placed to offer direction to the Committee on Justice and Equality on these issues. More on MASI’s work and how to support can be found at: https://www.masi.ie/.

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