Email the Ministers and your TDs
Dear Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman,
Your government plans to end direct provision by the end of 2024. That’s four more years of lockdown for those in direct provision. The government has not committed to ending the delays in the international protection process, that greatly exacerbate the impacts of the direct provision system. This failure has severe impacts on people’s mental health and ability to integrate in the community.
In order to address this ongoing harm, the government must identify suitable alternative modes of accommodation immediately and introduce new modes of accommodation in 2021.
Further priorities that government needs to act on right now are identified in the Catherine Day Report (page 83). The following actions can and should be done immediately;
1. Carry out vulnerability assessments for all people in the international protection process to identify and accommodate their special reception needs. A pilot program has commenced, but this will need to be heavily resourced to ensure that all people can be assessed, as Ireland has been obliged to do since 2018.
2. The allowances currently paid to people in direct provision should be increased from January 2021 and regularly reviewed in line with the cost of living. (4.12) – This has not been done.
3. The right to work should be made available after 3 months. (5.1) – This has been reduced to 6 months, not 3 months. It should be reduced to 3 months or 0 months without delay.
4. Applicants should be entitled to apply for driving tests and licenses as soon as they have made an application for protection. (5.2) – This has not been done yet. Government has committed to implementing this by summer 2021 in the White Paper.
5. Applicants should have the right to access higher education on the same basis and at the same fees as Irish people, once they meet the qualifying criteria (5.5). Access to education has been expanded but not to this extent; education is a human right, delay is not acceptable.
6. To clear the backlog of current cases a one-off case-processing approach should be introduced for all applications which have been more than two years in the system (6.7). This has not been done and there has been no commitment by the Department of Justice to do so. This priority – the case processing system – is a crucial action that needs immediate implementation by the Department of Justice.
The delays in the international protection process have worsened due to the impact of Covid-19, because international protection interviews and tribunals were paused for many months. People have been left waiting sometimes for over one year for a decision even after their interview. This has a negative effect on people’s mental health, ability to integrate in the community and delays the possibility of their family members joining them. As well as the once-off case processing approach for all applications which have been more than two years in the system, the government must act to ensure that interviews take place and decisions issue within specific lengths of time. The Minister for Justice must ensure that the International Protection Office has the resources, staff IT equipment to deliver this.
We know that our government can act quickly in the common interest when it has needed to since the start of COVID-19. We’ve had 21 years of people in Ireland living in direct provision and the harm that this does to people and to our communities. The government must act now identify suitable alternative modes of accommodation immediately, while also taking immediate actions to fully implement the priorities identified in the Catherine Day Report, and introduce new modes of accommodation in 2021.
I look forward to your response on each the actions listed above which require your immediate attention.