Belfast Telegraph

Victims of sex trafficking ‘forced out of Direct Provision’

It was also revealed that the recommended single female gender hostel for victims was set up without any specialised services.

Victims of sex trafficking are being forced to present as homeless, a committee heard (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Victims of sex trafficking are being forced to present as homeless, a committee heard (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Victims of sex trafficking are being asked to leave Direct Provision centres and forced to present as homeless, a committee has heard.

Brian Killoran, CEO of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, told the Oireachtas Justice Committee that women and underage girls who have been raped, sexually abused, coerced and trafficked are being asked to leave centres after 60 days, “which they believe is the upper limit of their responsibility to supporting victims of trafficking.”

It was also revealed that the recommended single female gender hostel for victims of trafficking was set up without any specialised services for such victims, and is now an unsuitable housing alternative.

Currently no victims of trafficking live in the gender-specified centre.

Direct Provision is the process used by the Irish Government to meet the basic needs of food and shelter for asylum seekers while their claims for refugee status are being processed, run by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA).

There are currently over 6,100 people living in Direct Provision in Ireland.

Mr Killoran’s remarks on Wednesday morning came as the annual 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report was published, revealing that Ireland has been downgraded to a Tier 2 country, meaning it is no longer deemed to be meeting the minimum standards required in the fight against human trafficking, owing, in particular, to its ongoing failure to address shortcomings in the treatment of victims.

The report found “chronic deficiencies” with Ireland’s victim identification procedure and criticised Ireland’s accommodation of victims of sex trafficking, who often spend extended periods of time in Direct Provision centres without access to appropriate and gender-sensitive support.

Also present at the committee was Dr Bryan McMahon, former Judge of the High Court, and author of the McMahon report, published in June 2015, which made a series of recommendations on improvements to the protection process for Direct Provision and asylum seekers.

Justice McMahon criticised the long periods of time people spend in Direct Provision awaiting their application process to be completed.

Direct Provision centres were initially set up for people to live there for six months. There are currently people in centres across Ireland who have been there for over seven years.

The working group recommended four years ago that anyone in the system for more than five years should be fast-tracked out of the system, as “the humane thing to do,” Justice McMahon added.

“We warned unless you cleaned out, backlog would continue to upset the expeditious dealing. The Government did not accept our proposal on that.

“The bulge in the system continues.

“If you’re only dealing with current people coming in, the present system will adequately deal with them, but it’s complicated by that legacy.

“Nowadays there is backlog of about 19 months before an applicant can have his case heard.

“That is too long.”

Justice McMahon added that the current housing crisis and lack of accommodation in Ireland is exacerbating overcrowding, and keeping those who have received asylum in Direct Provision.

“There has been a sustained increased in new applications averaging more than 300 a month,” he said.

“This has put greater pressure on RIA’s existing stock, in that more applicants continue to live in Direct Provision even when they receive positive application status, as alternative accommodation is not available for those who wish to avail of it.”

He estimates that there are 800 people trying to transition out of Direct Provision.

RIA is obliged to engage in emergency accommodation due to the housing shortages, costing 99 euro a night in some cases.

Justice McMahon warned this should be a “short-term fix and not a long-term solution” due to the expense.

The Direct Provision system has come under intense criticism since its inception in 2000, and has been criticised by human rights organisations as illegal, inhuman and degrading.

Concerns have been flagged about lack of acceptable living and hygiene standards in the centres, as well as the effect on residents’ mental and physical health while living there for extended periods.

PA

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