Thursday, 30 July 2020
Skellig Star Direct Provision Centre and the Future of Direct Provision: Statements
I thank the Minister for coming to the House at such short notice in response to our amendment to the Order of Business this morning. We appreciate it. I welcome the Minister and commend her on her appointment. It is well deserved and it has always been a pleasure to listen to her in the House, both now and when she had a previous role.
I wish to briefly express our support for the residents of the Cahersiveen centre, as outlined by my colleagues, Senator Hoey, yesterday, and Senator Wall, this morning. The news emerged about the appalling conditions in which the Cahersiveen residents were living and I wrote to both the Minister and her colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy O'Gorman, to express concern and ask that these matters be addressed urgently. I am glad to hear from the Minister that action is being taken urgently in this regard.
Direct provision was originally introduced as an ad hocand somewhat temporary system but it has morphed into a system with which there have been really serious problems and injustice, particularly in some specific areas. Like many others, I have visited centres and spoken with residents. The system was never suitable for families, particularly those with children. It was never suitable for people who wanted to do their own cooking and there previously was no facility for people to cook. As we know, self-catering facilities were only used more recently and it is a real problem. The long wait in the system of accommodation is a serious problem as it was originally intended to work for a short term.
The State approached the right to work in a grudging way by denying it initially and then only introducing it following a court action. Ireland is an outlier in that regard when compared with other jurisdictions and how they deal with asylum seekers' right to work. We should be clear on how we measure up.
I very much welcome the commitment in the programme for Government to replace direct provision by ending it, as we in Labour have called for, and replacing it with a new international protection system based on a not-for-profit approach. It is the right way to go and I am glad that Dr. Catherine Day's expert group is looking into best practice elsewhere to see how we can learn from it. It is good her report is due at the end of September and a White Paper is due by the end of December.
We accept that this cannot be done overnight. There must be a proper and adequate system to replace direct provision but we will hold the Minister, her Department and her colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, to account in order to ensure that the system is abolished so that we can see this country return to being an Ireland of the welcomes, as it should have been and tended to be. Others have spoken very eloquently about the positive contribution made by those from other countries and we must bear that in mind. I am very heartened by the Minister's comments in that regard.