- 26 Feb 21
The Irish Refugee Council has welcomed the White Paper launched by Minister Roderic O'Gorman. The focus now moves to implementation, the organisation says. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has also welcomed the development...
The Irish Refugee Council and the Irish Human Rights Commission have responded to the Government's White Paper, published by the Minister with responsibility for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O'Gorman.
Below is the full text of the statement, from Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council:
"This is a seminal moment in the long campaign to end Direct Provision. We first called for Direct Provision to end shortly after it was introduced. It is a hugely criticised system with a wealth of reports and commentary on what is wrong with it. Now it is time to replace it. We welcome the report. It broadly reflects the Advisory Group recommendations published in January and research we commissioned (Implementing Alternatives to Direct Provision) published in January.
"It goes some way in locking in an all of government approach and the Taoiseach’s introduction is important. It places the vulnerability assessment, required by law, at the centre of the process."
"It recommends the multi-strand accommodation approach that we recommended and includes mention of a budget and financing, expands existing housing funding arrangements to protection applicant accommodation and commits to building accommodation. These policies are hugely significant."
"It includes annual targets and incorporates independent oversight that includes participation of people with lived experience of Direct Provision and the experience of people in the protection process."
“The emphasis on integration from the day a person arrives in Ireland is also hugely important.”
"A weakness of the report is that it does not incorporate the Catherine Day Advisory Group recommendation on offering permission to remain to people two or more years in the system. The current system is dysfunctional (3,300 applications at the International Protection Office, processing times of a year and a half and nearly 7,000 people in Direct Provision). In our opinion the protection process needs to be reset. Not including this recommendation will make it harder to introduce a new system, although we note that further recommendations will be considered if backlogs remain. There will be considerable pressure on the Department of Justice to work through the backlog."
"Also, our research recommended an arm’s length body from government to drive the process of new accommodation models forward. We have doubts as to whether a government department has the dynamism and experience to drive this forward. We note that this recommendation will be considered again by the Department in late 2021.”
"We are also concerned that the real business of shifting to a new system will begin in 2022, not this year, as we recommend. Important groundwork must be laid this year. In addition, the end date of 2024 will be distant for many people. The current situation in Direct Provision is desperate. Lockdown and the pandemic have been particularly difficult, as acknowledged this week in the Government’s new Covid-19 plan. Direct Provision is vulnerable to Covid-19 and waiting times have increased. Implementation of short-term wins, which the report identifies, will be crucial to mitigate these systemic problems.”
"In short, we very much welcome the report but now the hard work begins. We look forward to working with Government and all stakeholders on implementation of the new system."
Full statement from the Irish Human Rights Commission
In December the Commission published its recommendations on the Government’s Direct Provision White Paper to the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.
The Commission in particular welcomes a commitment to ending of “for profit” approaches which have for twenty years outsourced the State’s International Protection obligations.
The Commission in December set out principles the State needs to adopt in reform of its international protection system. This includes a focus on integration from day one, access to onsite education and training, and early and effective access to the labour market. We note that key elements of these recommendations are reflected in today’s White Paper.
As Ireland’s national human rights institution and national equality body, the Commission considers the Implementation period to be an area of concern. The White Paper goes beyond the period recommended under the Catherine Day Report.
Sinéad Gibney, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:
“This White Paper is a starting point. Its publication and ambition is welcome, but Government needs to show a consistent political commitment to make the essential reform of our international protection system feel real for those who it is currently failing, and those who will use this system.
“The Taoiseach’s statement in this White Paper’s foreword to an International Protection System ‘centred on a human rights and equality based approach’ is a welcome sign of political leadership.
“However, showing people fleeing mistreatment and persecution the dignity they deserve, and the welcome we can offer will be the final litmus test of our international protection approach.
“The Commission will study today’s White Paper in detail.”