Negative Legacy of Direct Provision
Posted on: 20 July 2016
A report which was co-authored by the School of Social Work and Social Policy, looking at the difficulties faced by former asylum seekers in attempting to transition from Direct Provision to life in the wider community, has just been launched.
Having endured years of living in the Direct Provision system, known to negatively affect mental health, the research highlights the multiple challenges faced by former asylum seekers. Once they receive their status, people must then navigate a complex array of systems as they attempt to move out of institutions that have systematically disempowered them for many years.
Assistant Professor in Social Work Maeve Foreman, one of the report’s authors, commented: “One of the main recommendations of the report is that those granted asylum should be given similar supports to programme refugees. At the moment they are being left to fend for themselves to navigate our complicated social welfare system. In receipt of just €19.10 a week, they are expected to locate and pay for private rented accommodation. While they can seek exceptional needs payments to cover the cost of rent deposits these are discretionary payments and what is really needed is a resettlement grant.
"While there have been some small improvements since the Taskforce on Transitional Supports for Persons Granted Status in Direct Provision met last year, the current system for those transitioning out of Direct Provision continues to fall way short of support provided to Programme Refugees."
This research, which involved interviews with 22 former asylum seekers, 12 of whom had transitioned out of direct provision and 10 of whom were attempting to do so, attempts to document some of the difficulties people are experiencing and to inform the Government and relevant stakeholders of what needs to be done to ensure that this group are properly supported as they build their lives here in Ireland.
The current housing shortage is one such difficulty. Blessing Moyo, a former asylum seeker who worked as a peer researcher on the project, spoke of her own current difficulties in transitioning from Direct Provision.
“If you mention to the landlord that you’re on rent supplement they want nothing to do with you, which to me is discrimination. We all need houses for our family. It’s not my fault that I am not working. I have been denied the right to work for seven years now. The government have to do something about this or it will get worse.”
Those transitioning also faced significant barriers in accessing education and employment. For example, the years spent in Direct Provision are not counted in terms of eligibility for Back to Education Allowances. Also, finding even low-skilled employment proved extremely difficult, given the participants had not been permitted to work for many years and thus had no experience in the Irish context.
Author Muireann Ní Raghallaigh, lecturer in Social Work at UCD, commented: “What we are seeing now is the negative impact of people being left in the Direct Provision system for far too long. This system impedes integration and has in some cases created a legacy of dependency and difficulty in terms of transition. The state has a duty to ensure that those granted status have the necessary resources and supports to integrate into local communities and to overcome the many difficulties they face because of the Direct Provision system.”
Trinity’s Maeve Foreman concluded: “The McMahon Report (2015) recognised that those who have been in Direct Provision for long periods of time have lost personal autonomy over basic aspects of their lives, and have developed a dependency which is difficult to overcome. The findings of our report indicate that the state needs to recognise that it has a duty of care and a particular responsibility to assist with transition."
The report, entitled 'Transition: from Direct Provision to life in the community. The experiences of those who have been granted refugee status, subsidiary protection or leave to remain in Ireland', was launched at an event in the RIA by Mr David Stanton, Minister of State for Justice with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration.
The preliminary findings of this research were submitted to the government’s Taskforce that met last year to address the situation of people not being able to move out of DP after they got their papers. While there have been some positive changes arising from the Taskforce, including an information booklet and a proposal that the Citizen’s Information Board would hold occasional multi-agency information sessions in DP centres, a lot more is still needed.
Some of the report’s key recommendations:
- This report echoes numerous other studies in calling for an end to Direct Provision. In the meantime, to help prepare and support those living in DP prior to transitioning, improvements to the system need to be made, including the provision of self-catering facilities, increased payments, quicker processing times for asylum applications, permission to study and to work, increased psychosocial supports, and more support for cultural integration.
- Those exiting Direct Provision with legal status should be given the same level of support that Programme Refugees receive on arrival in Ireland – otherwise state policy and practice is suggesting that they are somehow less deserving.
- Upon receipt of status, people should be provided with clear written information, on what is needed to make the transition out of the Direct Provision system. Further verbal information, through a designated person, should also be available.
- The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) should provide a standard reference to those exiting Direct Provision, in order to help them obtain rental accommodation.
- As soon as people receive their papers, they should be entitled to normal social welfare allowances instead of the Direct Provision payment.
- A resettlement grant should be provided. It should be large enough to pay for a rental deposit, first month’s rent, and household essentials, such as bedding and kitchen utensils. Overall, every effort needs to be made to ensure that the process of transitioning out of Direct Provision hostels is poverty-proofed, especially considering that people involved have lived in poverty for many years while in the Direct Provision system.
- People exiting Direct Provision should have immediate access to the Back to Education Allowance. The criteria for eligibility need to be altered to ensure this.
Helen Hanley, Former | email@example.com | +353 1 896 4168