Belfast Telegraph

Refugee Council report warns Ireland in breach of EU law

There are 936 people seeking asylum living in emergency accommodation such as hotels and B&Bs.

Asylum seekers, refugees, human rights supporters and members of the public march to the Department of Justice to send a message to the Government demanding an end to the system of institutionalised accommodation for asylum seekers, known as Direct Provision (Niall Carson/PA)
Asylum seekers, refugees, human rights supporters and members of the public march to the Department of Justice to send a message to the Government demanding an end to the system of institutionalised accommodation for asylum seekers, known as Direct Provision (Niall Carson/PA)

A new Irish Refugee Council report has found that Ireland is in breach of EU law over failures to meet reception conditions.

The council is calling on the State to fulfil its obligations under the Reception Conditions Directive which became legally binding in Ireland in July 2018.

They say almost 1,000 asylum seekers are living in hotels across the country and struggling to access services, healthcare and employment opportunities.

The report found that despite a clear obligation on the State to assess each person within 30 days of seeking asylum to determine if they have special reception needs, there is currently no vulnerability assessment in place.

Meanwhile, there are 936 people seeking asylum living in emergency accommodation such as hotels and B&Bs, an increase from 196 in November 2018, and those living in emergency centres struggle to access support such as medical care or welfare support.

The report also found that 30% of the adult population of Direct Provision have been employed or self-employed but still face significant barriers to work.

CEO of the council Nick Henderson said the government has failed to keep its promises.

Failure to create such an assessment is a clear breach of Irish and EU law. Nick Henderson

“Despite the promise of reform when the Reception Conditions Directive came into force last July, this year has seen the situation in Direct Provision deteriorate,” he said.

“Based on our direct experience of working with people in the asylum process, there are a number of ways in which Ireland is breaching requirements of the Directive.”

“We are particularly concerned that there is still no vulnerability assessment in place.

“A voluntary medical screening is not the same as a vulnerability assessment which must be a formal, holistic process for assessing a person’s full psychosocial needs.

“Failure to create such an assessment is a clear breach of Irish and EU law.

“A further grave concern is the rapid increase in the number of people dispersed to ad hoc emergency accommodation premises across the country.

“936 people are now living in hotels, many of whom have struggled to access basic services including healthcare, schooling and the weekly allowance.

“With nearly a thousand people now in emergency accommodation since the introduction of the Directive, Ireland seems to be heading in the wrong direction.

“We need to see urgent change and full implementation of the law.”

The report also considers the effect of the introduction of the right to work.

Since the right to work was implemented 2,713 people have been given permission to work, and 1,160 have been refused.

Policy officer and author of the report, Rosemary Hennigan, said those entitled to work are still facing obstacles.

“For people with permission to work, there are difficulties accessing bank accounts and they still cannot apply for a driving licence,” she said.

“Accessing transport is a significant hurdle, particularly when many Direct Provision centres are situated in remote locations.

“While the right to work is an important reform, the people longest in the system have not benefited and the barriers to access continue to make it an illusion for many.”

As of June 2019, there were 6,108 people living in Direct Provision, and none of those people have been assessed for being vulnerable and requiring special reception needs.

PA

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