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Taoiseach says Direct Provision system needs to change but does not fuel racism

Leo Varadkar said no comparison can be made between the killing of George Floyd and how the State treats asylum seekers

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(FILE PIC) Lesley Mkoko, 51, who fled Swaziland three years ago in his Direct Provision room that he shares with two other men at Viking House in Waterford.

(FILE PIC) Lesley Mkoko, 51, who fled Swaziland three years ago in his Direct Provision room that he shares with two other men at Viking House in Waterford.

(FILE PIC) Lesley Mkoko, 51, who fled Swaziland three years ago in his Direct Provision room that he shares with two other men at Viking House in Waterford.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended the Direct Provision system for asylum seekers saying it needs to change but the system does not fuel racism.

The Minister for Justice confirmed last month that almost 8,000 asylum seekers are being provided with accommodation and support across the State.

There have been concerns about the ability of people living in Direct Provision to social distance and self-isolate because of cramped conditions.

There were calls from TDs in the Dail on Thursday to end Direct Provision with some making comparisons between it and the killing of George Floyd.

Mr Varakdar said successive governments have tried and will continue to reform it but that it is an optional system.

He said: “A lot of Direct Provision accommodation is sub-standard and that needs to change.

“Some of it is a good standard with people being able to have their own door and catering, some of it is of a bad standard and that needs to change.

“But I think we need to understand the difference between Direct Provision and a man who was killed by the police by having somebody step on his neck.

“Direct Provision ultimately is a service offered by the State, it is not compulsory and it is not a form of detention, it is a service provided for by the state and they are provided with free accommodation, food, heat, light, healthcare and education and also some spending money.

“It is not the same thing as a man being killed by the police.”

He said he does not believe the system fuels racism.

“Does it add to racism or not? I hope it doesn’t.

“Lots of communities have welcomed accommodation centres in their towns and villages and set up welcoming centres so I don’t think it always fuels racism.”

“What would the alternative like?

“The alternative put forward is purpose built accommodation built by the State to house asylum seekers or accommodation built by non-profit housing bodies or charities.

“I think we would run into the same problems in communities.

“The minute that planning application goes in you would see the public meeting, people coming up with all sorts of reasons why they don’t want a state run own door accommodation in their town or village.”

PA