Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions

Direct Provision: Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality

4:00 pm

Photo of Pádraig MacLochlainnPádraig MacLochlainn (Donegal North East, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

Senator Ó Clochartaigh has indicated that he wishes to make an additional point but I will make some comments before that. Our committee visited four direct provision centres and I am pleased we have done so. There are issues of commonality between those who run and manage the centres and the asylum seekers. It is universally agreed that the length of time for people remaining there is unacceptable. These places were originally designed for stays of six months. Without getting into detail and saying whether some centres were good and others were bad, I will speak to the overall system. Citizens might be content to stay in some centres for six months but there are many where they would not be content to stay. It is entirely unacceptable for people to be there for anything up to 14 years in any centre. That is a universal argument from the people who run the centres, asylum seekers and anybody else involved with the process.

The issue of prescription charges is also important. The cost is €19 per week and prescription charges must also be paid, so that must be addressed. There is also an issue regarding kitchen facilities. One of the dynamics any parent has with a child is teaching them about cooking and cleaning; it is a social exchange of parenting from one generation to another. The people in these centres come from a multitude of countries and cultures, with wonderful and rich ethnic aspects of food etc. Food is at the centre of so many cultures and there should be an ability to have a place where people can pass on to children those cooking skills and enjoy the process. The people who run the centres and asylum seekers stressed this as a common point.

I could be here for hours outlining my points. There is also the issue of somebody having leave to remain but there being no housing available. That is not unique to people in the direct provision system and it is true across Irish society. The centres will continue to seek asylum seekers and house them until they can get housing. If these people have leave to remain and the rights of every other citizen, should they continue to just have €19 per week? Do they have the right to a job and education? Should they get the full social welfare payment and work out some arrangement with respect to food and upkeep? Is there flexibility in this regard? These are just some themes and I know the Minister of State knows the issues as well as I do. I could go on but some of these matters stand out as something that could be addressed.

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