Tuesday, 23 January 2018
Reception Conditions Directive: Motion
I am delighted to speak on this very important issue of direct provision and employment. The system of direct provision for asylum seekers is almost 18 years old and from the beginning, it has been a cause of significant controversy and debate. Among the issues raised most recently are the duration of the stay in direct provision, the impact of that on family life, children, adults, spouses, siblings and so on, oversight and monitoring and the right to work.
In 2015, the Joint Committee on Public Services Oversight and Petitions stated that the system is not fit for purpose and recommended that it be replaced. That is almost three years ago. Why the delay? From a humanitarian perspective, we are duty bound to offer whatever assistance we can to those genuinely in need of asylum and ensure that those who enter the direct provision system are treated with dignity and respect. That is the very least we should do as a Christian country. It is a duty of the State under any human rights charter, never mind international human rights charters, to look after people and give them a modicum of respect and dignity.
I submitted a parliamentary question well over a year ago on this issue to the then Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality seeking the number of children who have been born to those in the direct provision system since its introduction in 2000. I received a reply from the then Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, that the information I had requested is not readily available as it is not collated by either the Department of Justice and Equality or the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. That is outrageous. Are we just locking them away behind closed doors? Is it a case of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil? It is unbelievable. I am not blaming the then Minister of State for that but it is outrageous that we cannot tell the number of newborns in the centres. I hope we can tell the number of adults in them. It is scandalous and extraordinary, when one thinks about it. Presumably, the children born to those in the asylum process are de facto part of that process, yet we have no data or numbers available. That is shocking. The number of asylum seekers accommodated on 31 December 2015 was 4,696, an increase of 332 persons or 7.6% on the same date in 2014. This is the second year-on-year increase in seven years.
The Reception and Integration Agency spent €57.025 million on accommodation for asylum seekers in 2015, an increase of 4.7% on 2014. Therein lies the problem, and Deputy Wallace and others referred to it. It is a gravy train for some unscrupulous so-called businessmen and entrepreneurs, and it is a shame. We will be having tribunals into this issue as we have inquiries now into so many things that went on in the past. We are told that we have done all our washing and that we have a lovely clean country now. We will have inquiries into this issue when the Minister and I are no longer in this House. Shame on all of us to have allowed this go on under our noses.