Ending Institutional Living in Direct Provision: A Conclusion?

Direct-ProvisionA number of key themes emerged over the day as regards the system of direct provision.

Firstly, the posts from those who have experienced the direct provision themselves (see herehere and here).  These posts give but a glimpse of what it must be like to live, without a right to work, in a communal setting, to waive any sense of privacy and dignity, and to be placed at the mercy of systems and institutions that place lives on hold. A system that was introduced, as Judge Catherine McGuiness noted on Morning Ireland, as a quick fix temporary measure, has become a forum of rights denial, degradation and disempowerment of human beings.

Secondly, the worrying manner in which direct provision was created and is being implemented (see, herehere and here) and its impact on individuals, most notably children.  Law as a system is only as good as those who are responsible for creating, implementing and interpreting the law. The questions surrounding the legislative basis for direct provision and the impact that law, policy and politics have on the lives of those in direct provision show a stark disregard for their humanity. As I and others have argued previously, the system of institutionalisation of individuals reflects badly on where we in Ireland have come. The apology of our Taoiseach, Enda Kenny to those who suffered such horrendous abuses in Magdalene Laundries will ring hollow unless there is a swift reform of the direct provision system. Highlighting the ‘foreign’ nature of direct provision residents is no response to such an inadequate and dehumanising system. As Judge Catherine McGuiness has noted, the next apology the State may have to make will be to asylum seeking children.

Thirdly, the degrading nature of this system and how it impacts on the lives of individuals are also reflected in some of the posts (see here and here), where case studies highlight the plight of those who have lived in direct provision.  Ireland’s international human rights obligations may act as a tool in the call for reform of the direct provision system.

Next steps

All this leads to the question as to what the solution to this crisis is. The answer: there are no easy and quick solutions.  However, it is now essential that systems for quickly but fairly and with respect to due process, for determining whether an individual is entitled to refugee status, subsidiary protection and/or leave to remain in Ireland. If that individual is, then she will be able to reside in the State and gain similar rights as Irish citizens. If an individual does not qualify for any protection status, then she should be removed from the State in a manner that respects her dignity and human rights. For such a standard to be reached, then systems need to be put in place that have the confidence of asylum seekers and their legal representatives to deliver a fair outcome. However, sometimes, through neither the fault of the State or of the asylum seeker, the status determination process will take longer than six months (or even a year), and it is then that having to live in direct provision begins to become very problematic. By time-limiting direct provision and temporarily moving a person to independent living, this will stop some of the most negative aspects of the direct provision system.

The Irish Refugee Council has a petition calling for the reform of the direct provision system, and those wishing to sign this petition can do so here.

The events took place as part of the Campaign to End Institutional Living and I must now thank all those who contributed to the blog carnival. A special thank you to our contributors who live (or lived) in direct provision. These posts in particular have provided an insight into the everyday challenges, difficulties and degradations of institutionalised living. These posts have put a human face on the tragedy of direct provision in Ireland (and thanks to NASC and Doras Luimní for organising these posts). Further thanks are extended to Luke Hamilton, Doras Luimní; Claire Cumiskey and Fiona Hurley, Legal Officers in NASC-the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, Saoirse Brady, Free Legal Advice Centres; Samantha Arnold, Irish Refugee Council and Senator Jillian van Turnhout.

All of todays blog posts from the blog carnival on direct provision and ending institutional living can be accessed here.