Direct provision is 14 years old today.
Today, from 7am to 9pm, there will be 14 hours of blog posts on the issue of direct provision. The voices of asylum seekers themselves are central to this blog carnival, and we will hear their voices throughout the day. The Department of Justice and Department of Social Protection were invited to contribute to this carnival, however they have not replied to my email. Therefore, posts from several organisations working with and on behalf of asylum seekers, social workers, others challenging this system and artists, are all present.
Direct provision became formally operational on 10 April 2000. Introduced during a panic about numbers coming to Ireland, it was proffered as a short term solution to the needs of a transitory and changing population. Asylum seekers were dispersed on a no choice basis around the country, are provided with their bed and meals, along with an allowance of €19.10 per week per adult, and €9.60 per week, per child. These allowance rates have not changed since direct provision was first introduced. The ‘comfort payments’ rate was communicated to former Health Boards in this communication to Health Boards on 10 December 1999, international human rights day.
I have highlighted on a number of occasions the deeply problematic nature as regards the legal regulation of the direct provision system, including:
- The Department of Social Protection recognises itself that it has no power to make the €19.10/€9.60 payments: The Ultra Vires Nature of Direct Provision payment and the response of the Department of Justice here:Response of Dept of Justice. Michael Farrell of the Free Legal Advice Centres successfully challenged the automatic exclusion of asylum seekers from the social welfare system from 2000-2009, however the Government then excluded asylum seekers from receving any social welfare payments whatsoever.
- So, the Department of Social Protection has no power whatsoever to make the €19.10/€9.60 payments, it is outside their powers due to the 2009 Social Welfare Act (see here, here, here, here, here, here ,here and here). I have discussed this issue extensively here.
- Time spent in direct provision is deeply problematic and causing significant mental and physical problems for asylum seekers (see here);
- A Northern Ireland High Court judge refused to return an asylum seeking family from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland as it would not be in keeping with the welfare of the child;
- The fact that I believe (and others would strongly disagree) that there is overwhelming public support for the direct provision system, as there was such support for borstals, industrial schools, Magdalene laundries.
- The State seems set against any reform or discontinuance of direct provision. The (very long promised) Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill will not produce any reform in this area.
- While one legal challenge to direct provision is no longer before the High Court, a case will be before the High Court in the coming weeks (with pretty much the same arguments) challenging the direct provision system under legislative, constitutional and European Convention on Human Rights grounds.
So today, we (yet again) dedicate another day of discussion to the system of direct provision. The voices for reform or destruction of direct provision continue to speak to those in power. You can follow the examination of direct provision throughout the day on www.humanrights.ie, on Twitter, where we are using the hashtag #directprovision14, and share the posts from Human Rights in Ireland’s Facebook page.