Belfast Telegraph

Direct Provision gift appeal ‘brings out best in people’

There are more than 1,600 children currently in the Direct Provision system.

Aideen Conway from the Jesuit Refugee Service with some of the donations to their Christmas Toy Appeal for children in Direct Provision (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)
Aideen Conway from the Jesuit Refugee Service with some of the donations to their Christmas Toy Appeal for children in Direct Provision (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)

Local communities around Ireland have been donating their time and Christmas presents to families living in Direct Provision.

Asylum seekers are housed in residential institutions known as Direct Provision centres across the country, with 38 facilities in total.

There are more than 1,600 children currently in the Direct Provision system.

In recent months there have been media reports raising concerns regarding the level of care and cleanliness as well as availability of food in the centres, which are usually closed off to the general public.

Aideen Conway from the Jesuit Refugee Service says wider media attention means the group is sometimes inundated with gifts, and this year they have had donations of more than 600 toys.

“I think there’s a much bigger awareness now of Direct Provision, more organisations running toy appeals, a lot more attention in the media,” she said.

“We’ve had so many calls and emails about people wanting to offer support.”

Eugene Quinn, chairman of the Tiny Tots creche programme in Knockalisheen Direct Provision centre, said the presents and centre Christmas party offers a sense of normality for the families.

“We’ve been doing the party and gift drive for the around 10 years, when it came to our attention that the children in the centres weren’t receiving toys,” he said.

“We’ve always had a generous response, it brings out the best in people, people are aware that this is a vulnerable group, I don’t know how deep the knowledge is on that, but they are conscious people aren’t at home, they’ve been separated from their families.

“Irish people in general are very generous and understand the notion of moving away from family, it’s heartwarming.

“In a lot of cases the children aren’t Christian but they are aware of the festivities and it’s much wider than the Christian part to it, it’s culturally ubiquitous receiving gifts this time of year.”

One mother living in the Knockalisheen centre, who did not want to be named, said being included in Christmas traditions was positive for her children.

“The Christmas party is nice because it’s not really about religion, it’s just something everyone can attend and enjoy.

“The children feel as though they are included in an Irish tradition and that is positive for everyone.”

Seven of the centres are state-owned but the majority are run on a for-profit basis by private contractors.

The latest figures from the Department of Justice show five of the 38 Direct Provision centres around Ireland are oversubscribed with residents, and the majority of other centres are close to capacity.

Direct Provision centres in counties Meath, Laois, Cork and Clare were housing more people than agreed under contracted capacity.

PA

From Belfast Telegraph