A new report published yesterday, Tuesday 18 September, by the Irish Refugee Council (IRC) catalogues over 10 years of enforced child poverty, malnutrition and social exclusion caused by the institutional system of accommodating asylum seekers, known as Direct Provision.
The report, ‘State sanctioned child poverty and exclusion: the case of children in accommodation for asylum-seekers’,was published yesterday and launched by CEO of Barnardos, Fergus Finlay.
The damning report highlights the plight of children in the State’s asylum process and suggests many families are living in circumstances of extreme poverty in overcrowded accommodation with inadequate food.
It documented frequent instances of malnutrition among children and expectant mothers as well as illnesses related to diet among babies and young children.
The study, which reviewed the provision of direct accommodation in Ireland over the past decade, highlighted cases of weight loss among children and hunger among adults because of strict family rationing.
In one case, a reception centre in Co Mayo stipulated that once a child reached six months, no more baby or toddler foods would be provided and the children would only be supplied with food “consistent with the rest of the residents”.
In Sligo's Globe House there has been many complaints from the residents over the quality of the food being supplied. They have on occasions taken to the streets of Sligo to have their case made public.
The report found that, in many instances, asylum-seekers and their families were subject to severe levels of overcrowding, with many families confined to single rooms for long periods. In one case, a family of five was confined to single room, with three children made to sleep in one bed, despite repeated complaints.
The report also warned there was a “real risk” of child abuse in direct provision, particularly where single families were required to share with strangers.
Of the 5,098 people currently residing in reception centres for asylum-seekers across the country, over one third or 1,789 are children. The families are given an allowance of €19.10 per week for an adult and €9.60 for a child.
The system, which was set up in 2000 by the Department of Justice to deal with the increasing number of asylum claimants, was intended to house applicants and their families for six months.
However, the report said asylum-seekers in Ireland typically spent four years in the system, and in some cases over seven years before their claims were processed.
Some the children living in these centres are not necessarily applying for asylum themselves, but are children of asylum seekers and may have been born and lived their entire lives in Ireland.
The meagre allowance afforded to asylum families left many in circumstances of extreme income poverty, the report found. This resulted, in what it called, “significant material deprivation”, with many families unable of purchase toys and pay for outings for special occasions.
The report said children living in direct provision were often alienated as a result of “enforced poverty and social exclusion”.
The report’s author Samantha Arnold, a children’s officer with the IRC, said the conditions in which children in direction provision live amounted to “child abuse and neglect”.
She added: “Despite not having chosen to live in Ireland or seek asylum here, the children living in and growing up in direct provision are subject to enforced poverty, discrimination and social exclusion.”
Chairing the launch, Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, said “This welcome report demonstrates the failure of the state to vindicate children’s rights set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the family life rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of children in the asylum system.
“The picture painted of the present situation must give rise to concern, and indeed anger,” she said.
The chief executive of children’s charity Barnardos, Fergus Finlay said the the history of institutionalised care for children in Ireland is one of tragedy, abuse and neglect. “The system of direct provision is another example of our failure to protect some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”
The full report can be seen and downloaded here;http://www.irishrefugeecouncil.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/State-sanctioned-child-poverty-and-exclusion.pdfAlways be first with Sligo news - Never miss a story - Join us on Facebook