Direct Provision: Statements (Continued)

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 945 No. 1
Unrevised

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin: Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin] This is a key point in all of this. Those transitioning also face significant barriers in accessing education and employment. The years spent in direct provision are not counted towards eligibility for the back to education allowance. Finding even low-skilled employment proves extremely difficult given that participants have not been permitted to work for many years. We now see the very negative impact.

On Monday, I visited the Eyre Powell centre in Newbridge where 68 people live, including seven children under the age of 18. I was very struck by the energy of the young people living there. Many young men there have just completed coaching courses with a local sports partnership. They were incredibly enthusiastic about wanting to contribute to their community. Supervisors in the sports partnership scheme would absolutely love to bring these young men out into the community to work with voluntary organisations, sporting and otherwise. We have some festivals coming up but unfortunately-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Only a few minutes remain for the Deputy's colleagues.

Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin: Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin I know that. We have agreed it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher That is okay. Far be it for me to interfere in the internal affairs-----

Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin: Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin The Leas-Cheann Comhairle is interfering now.

Due to Garda vetting restrictions they are unable to do so. This is wrong. They want to work and participate in society but they are prohibited from joining the workforce. Aissa Sow, who lived in the centre, fled from Guinea without her family in 2011. Recently she was publicly interviewed. Her description of feeling like a prisoner in direct provision is a reminder of just how hard is the process. Her story ended happily as she was granted asylum and has now applied for her mother to join her. She is lucky.

There is no doubt people in direct provision have sought asylum to protect themselves and their children in the hope of providing a more secure future. In direct provision they are denied the capacity to live as a family and they are left waiting indefinitely for this future to begin. We need to do better.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Deputies have four minutes between them.

Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin: Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin That is fine. We agreed it.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte The first time the Minister of State and I met was at NUI Galway last year at the launch of the inclusive centenaries scholarships. It was a great day of celebration when scholarships were announced for young asylum seekers living in direct provision. NUI Galway is providing scholarships for people who have done incredibly well in education, giving them the opportunity to go forward. The young people told powerful stories, such as the first time Connacht won a European rugby competition, and how the young men sat in their bedrooms having to watch it on their phones while all of their friends were able to watch it into houses. Some of the schoolchildren in the Gallery possibly do not really understand what we are speaking about with regard to direct provision. Children in direct provision have problems with studying. They face real challenges trying to study for the junior or leaving certificate when they go home in the evenings to their shared bedrooms. However, they have attained incredibly high standards, which was acknowledged by NUI Galway, which has opened up an opportunity for children whereby they will be funded to go to third level college. The young people also spoke very passionately about their lack of access to playgrounds. I am a mother of three children and people can take this for granted. We all have back gardens where we are able to put up our slides and our swings. The children living in direct provision do not have this opportunity.

I acknowledge the work being done by the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton. He is completely compassionate and engaging and has done much work over the past 12 months, which as Deputy O'Loughlin has commented, can be seen. Much work remains to be done and nobody is denying this, but as spokesperson for children my emphasis is on their opportunity to study and to be like every other child in the country. We have invited them in and it is up to us to support them.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy Direct provision is not fit for purpose and Fianna Fáil believes independent oversight is needed. People have been in direct provision for far too long. I acknowledge the figures are dropping, but it is hard to imagine that almost 600 people have been in direct provision for more than five years. It is unthinkable that in this country people could be boxed up for so long. Let us reflect on the lives of children caught up in this disgraceful scenario with totally unsuitable living conditions. As Deputy Rabbitte stated, they have no proper play conditions and there are many other issues. This has impacted on the lives of young people and it is a major violation of human rights. One can only imagine what parents go through seeing what their children go through.

Direct provision was supposed to be a temporary measure, but some people have been in it for ten years.

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton No.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy There may be a limited number of them but they have been there for ten years. Why is it taking so long?

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton No.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy Some have been there for ten years and I will argue this point with the Minister of State. It is a limited number, but they are there.

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton They are not.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy Some of them are in the Minister of State's county.

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton No.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy Why is it taking so long to progress these cases? People are supposed to live on €19.10 per week. These unfortunate people cannot work or go to college and there is no integration with local people. This is a very important factor. I acknowledge the McMahon report has many good recommendations and I understand some of them are being implemented.

I am very impressed with the role of the Minister of State in this. I dealt with him with regard to Syrians coming to Ballaghaderreen and I know he is very compassionate and has a very good view of this. He is improving matters slowly but surely. I urge him to act for those people who have been in direct provision for far too long and give them a decent life. That is all they need. Many of them have come from very unfortunate circumstances.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Cuirim fáilte roimh an deis caint ar an ábhar seo - soláthar díreach. Ba chóir go mbeadh níos mó plé ar an ábhar agus ba chóir go mbeadh an t-ábhar seo ag barr ár smaointe agus sinn ag plé mí-úsáid agus leatroim stairiúla agus sárú cearta daonna mar atáimid le roinnt seachtainí anuas.

On 10 April 2000, Ireland embarked on a renewed episode of mistreatment of the most vulnerable in Irish society. There has been much talk over recent weeks about President Trump's ban on people travelling from certain countries throughout the Middle East, about which the Irish people were outraged and rightly so. Successive Governments have failed to deal comprehensively with what I consider to be quite a discriminatory policy that lies directly at our feet. I acknowledge Deputy Stanton's bona fides and intentions this area, but I consider it to be a discriminatory policy.

In 2000, the then Fianna Fáil Minister for Justice, John O’Donoghue, commenced a new programme aimed at tackling the issue of refugees coming here to seek asylum. These refugees, many of whom were fleeing war torn areas, came to Ireland in search of safety, in the hope of escaping persecution in their country of origin. The system was seen as a way of housing these people, providing them with basics while the asylum application was being processed. Today in Ireland 35 of these centres are active throughout the State, housing approximately 4,500 people.

Like Frankenstein’s monster, the system has become much more than intended and is now quite grotesque, housing people for many years longer than intended and in unacceptable conditions. As Sinn Féin spokesperson on children I will speak on direct provision from a child protection and children’s rights perspective. It was only last month the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, announced she had clarified legal issues that prohibited the Ombudsman for Children from receiving complaints from or regarding children living in direct provision. This is not before time and is long overdue. It is due to happen next month but should have happened many years ago.

Children living in direct provision are subject to substandard living conditions in an environment not conducive to growth and development. These children come from different areas of the world and from conditions so bleak they are practically unimaginable to us. They have experienced extraordinary amounts of trauma and have been persecuted from a very young age. Many of these children arrived in this country seeking asylum and a new life of dignity, allowing them to live rather than simply to exist. However, in many ways they face persecution and discrimination of a different type on entering the State.

Every year, the Children's Rights Alliance produces a report card. It scored the Government D minus for lack of progress on direct provision. I will highlight two issues from the McMahon report which have not been implemented adequately.


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