Progress towards ending Direct Provision far too slow one year on from White Paper - Pa Daly TD
Speaking today on the anniversary of the publication of the government’s White Paper on ending Direct Provision, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Law Reform, Equality and Integration, Pa Daly TD, has outlined the importance of transparency in ending the current system.
He urged the government to do much more to fulfil their promises on Direct Provision, to ensure a better and fairer system is introduced instead.
Teachta Daly said:
“One year ago today, the Government published its long awaited White Paper on Direct Provision. When it was launched, Sinn Féin made it clear that the government’s white paper offered a potentially humane end to the system of direct provision, dependent on its implementation.
“We warned the government that the White Paper needed to be backed by urgent action to ensure the promise wasn’t empty rhetoric. Implementation is clearly lacking in many respects, most glaringly in the area of accommodation.
“I am concerned that pledges to implement change are taking place too slowly. The government must be much more upfront about the status of their promises; including which pledges have been achieved and which remain outstanding.
“Some recent responses to parliamentary questions are concerning, in particular the plans with respect to accommodation.
“The White Paper said that housing would be built or acquired. Minister O’Gorman seems to be focusing on acquisition mostly, with the focus on turnkey properties.
“This puts the Department in competition with other state agencies and does nothing to add to the overall housing stock, which is under severe stress.
“There has been seemingly little progress on working with AHBs to build new accommodation, and the White Paper also provides for rent a room schemes and rental subsidies. This will lead to a dependence on the private rental market, unless new accommodation is built.
“Recently, I was more concerned by statistics provided to me as to how many International Protection applicants are accommodated by the state. The figures were as follows:
- 5,828 persons IPAS Accommodation centres;
- 1065 persons in emergency accommodation centres;
- 396 persons in the National Reception Centre in Balseskin;
- 323 persons in quarantine facilities, and;
- 970 in pre-reception facilities.
“In addition, as at 31 December 2021 there were 1,761 persons in direct provision who had received permission to remain. This is a very worrying statistic, as it demonstrates the challenges refugees and asylum seekers will have in getting private rental accommodation.
“Any policy that relies too heavily on the private rental sector will repeat the mistakes of Direct Provision. The Minister should make a quarterly report to the Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, with pipeline numbers on new builds, acquisitions and the number currently in the old system.
“This will help to provide transparency, as the government should not fudge the numbers in any aspect of housing. The Government and the Green Party should not declare victory if the for profit element of Direct Provision is replicated in any new system.
“The Department of Justice’s undocumented scheme will have a track for international protection applicants to gain status. Uptake of this scheme will be the key to its success, and even where applicants will have gained proper status, employment and housing will still pose significant challenges. Many of those with Leave to Remain have had to stay in Direct Provision, given the housing crisis has made them unable to access other accommodation.
“All the while, we continue to see asylum seekers arrive and be housed in inappropriate accommodation. The legally binding standards on providers have not lead to a marked improvement and only a proper reformed system will do so. The government will only get one chance at setting things right, and this must not be squandered.
“The Direct Provision system is clearly failing asylum seekers and wider communities, and it is right that it be ended. Sinn Féin believes in a fair, humane system which respects asylum seekers’ needs. I will continue to hold the government to account for their commitment to end Direct Provision. People need more than soundbites from Ministers, they need to see real delivery which can make a profound impact in peoples’ lives.”