Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.00 1 Jan 2021


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As Ireland enters another year, so does its much-debated Direct Provision system.

While the Government has committed to abolishing it 'within its lifetime', this could be several years away.

Perhaps the biggest step in 2020 was a potential blueprint for what a replacement system could look like.

An independent report into the scheme, chaired by Dr Catherine Day, has recommended several ways to move it forward.

It proposed that after three months in a reception centre, asylum seekers should move to own-door accommodation - which would be managed by local authorities.

While applications for international protection and appeals should be processed faster.

It currently takes up to 19 months for a first decision, and a further eight months if somebody appeals.

The report said this should be done in a maximum of 12 months.

The report also recommended that asylum seekers should have immediate access to the labour market as soon as they leave the reception centre, rather than having to wait nine months.

A general view of the Mosney Direct Provision centre in Co Meath which provides for the welfare of asylum seekers and their families as they await decisions on their asylum application. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

In October, Dr Day told Newstalk: "The Direct Provision system is now 20 years old, and it was never designed to last so long.

"It's a system that takes too long to decide whether to grant asylum to people, and it also keeps people waiting for far too long in unsuitable accommodation".

Government officials have been reviewing the report, and are due to produce a 'white paper' on implementing the changes by the end of the year.

The document also said there should be clear guidance to ensure all applicants can open bank accounts - as well as working with the Department of Transport towards access to driving licenses.

On conversations with the Government, Dr Day said: "We're asking for them to provide temporary accommodation, not necessarily houses, because we're not asking for any privilege for asylum seekers.

"But these people are here now, and they're in very unsuitable accommodation and there's been a lot of international and national criticism of the situation that they're in".

'It can be done'

She suggested a current programme, which mostly looks after Syrian refugees, could be the template for Direct Provision going forward.

"We acknowledge that it will take time and it will be difficult, but we believe it can be done".

On cost, she said their new system would actually save money.

"We compared the cost of what it costs today to keep over 8,000 people in Direct Provision compared to what it would have cost with the new system.

"And to my pleased surprise, the new system is costed at costing €35m a year less".

But it seems to be a money game.

In July, it was revealed that the former Mosney holiday camp - the biggest Direct Provision centre in Ireland - took in €144m in revenue from State contracts between 2004 and 2018.

Millstreet - which runs a centre in Cork - made €77.2m from contracts between 2004 and 2018 across a number of different properties.

Its last set of accounts from 2018 also show it accumulated profits of €11m and had €8m cash in the bank.

Newstalk's deputy business editor Gavin McLoughlin explained: "We don't know what part of their turnover comes from what part of their business, but we can see they were expanding.

"The accounts say 2018 had seen a big jump in turnover for them because they had opened new Direct Provision centres and they had expanded existing ones.

"Obviously if they're expanding in that area, they're not doing too bad from it when it comes to a financial point of view".

Main image: A general view of the Mosney Direct Provision centre in Co Meath which provides for the welfare of asylum seekers and their families as they await decisions on their asylum application. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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