Child asylum seekers in Ireland paint distressing and unsafe picture

This report is unique because it is generally rare for Governments to consult with children in the asylum process within Europe.

Photo credit: Caroline Reid /Comlamh| A protest in Athlone against the Direct Provision system.

The Children’s Rights Alliance in Ireland, a member and National Partner Network of Eurochild, welcomes the publication by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, of a consultation report undertaken by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs with children and young people living in Direct Provision (state provisions for asylum seekers). This report is unique because it is generally rare for Governments to consult with children in the asylum process within Europe.

Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance: “While we are pleased that this report has finally been published, its findings are stark and shocking. Children have been hugely critical of their lives in Direct Provision and this does not make for easy reading. It is clear from the report that the children and young people have plenty to say and welcomed the opportunity to have their voice heard. It is important that we listen to them. It is alarming that children struggled to identify things they liked about their lives and yet could easily discuss about what they did not like.

Of deep concern is that children and families report feeling unsafe in Direct Provision, notably when sharing space with single men. Children reported “men look creepy at you” and “There are loads of men bothering us”. The safety and welfare of children in Direct Provision cannot be compromised any longer. A dedicated child protection and welfare strategy needs to be developed and implemented immediately as the Children’s Rights Alliance has been calling for some time.

Food emerged as a key issue. Children noted that they could not cook their own food and the food that they are provided with is poor quality or unhealthy food. “The food is not good – we eat Irish food and drink – they should cook African food or let us do it ourselves.” It is crucial that the number of self-catering facilities for families with children is increased and a nutritional audit undertaken. National Standards for the direct provision system are urgently needed and an independent inspectorate must also be established to ensure the quality of these standards are maintained.

Children talked about the poverty they experience in Direct Provision “We need to buy every day something for school and how we buy with this money?” In Direct Provision, children lose out on childhood norms like going to birthday parties because they cannot afford it. Despite a small increase last month to the Direct Provision payment, we are calling for this payment to be increased in full to the Working Group recommendation of €29.80.

Children and young people also talked about sharing confined living accommodation and sometimes beds even with their parents. While some young people talked about a positive relationship with centre staff, the vast majority found centre staff uncaring, unfair, rude and mean. This is the kind of treatment that we have come to expect with institutionalisation.

We call for this important report to be debated by both Houses of the Oireachtas and for the outstanding recommendations of the Working Group report to be implemented without delay”.

 

More information:

Read the Irish DCYA report on consultation with children and young people living in Direct Provision.

Eurochild is part of the European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG), a coalition that recently wrote to the European Commission demanding greater oversight to avoid use of EU funds in the creation of institutional care settings for migrant and refugee children. Read the recommendations contained in the letter here.