It is the first time a report has heard directly from children living within the system
Children in Ireland’s Direct Provision system have described it as unsafe.
A University College Cork report conducted for the government has lifted the lid on the experiences of young asylum seekers between the ages of 8 and 17.
There are currently approximately 4,800 people living in Direct Provision in Ireland, awaiting a decision on their asylum applications.
A quarter of those are under the age of 17 – while the vast majority of the children are 12 or younger.
Today’s report hears from children who describe conditions in hotel and hostel accommodation as "overcrowded" and "dirty."
They report feeling "unsafe" and "intimidated," sharing facilities with older men. A number of children spoke of men who “look creepy at you” while others warned that there are “loads of men bothering us.”
The report marks the first time children in the system have been consulted directly.
Tanya Ward of the Children's Right's Alliance (CRA) said it is essential that the government now listens to what they are saying:
“Some of the children talked about feeling unsafe,” she said. “Particularly children living beside large groups of single men and you can imagine when you have to compete with a large group of single men that is not working from different parts of the world – they are taking over their recreation spaces and their communal spaces.”
“But some of the girls also talked about feeling unsafe; the men looked at them in a creepy way and they were afraid to wear make-up.”
The state currently pays parents €9.60 per week per child. Parents are not allowed to supplement that income in any way. They are not provided with cooking facilities and eat what they are provided with in canteens.
The children have warned that living in poverty means they miss out on school trips and can't afford new shoes.
While some of the children reported building positive relationships with staff at the centres – many found workers “unfair,” “rude” or “mean.”
Ms Ward welcomed the publication of the report – but warned that is findings are “stark and shocking.”
“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,” she said.
“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.”
The CRA has called for the report to be debated by both houses of the Oireachtas as soon as possible and for the recommendations of the government appointed working group on Direct Provision to be implemented.
In particular, the alliance is calling for the Direct Provision payment to be increased to €29.80 – in line with the recommendations.