In December 2016 4425 asylum seekers were accommodated in the Direct Provision system across 33 reception centres in 16 counties. 30 of these were Accommodation centres, 2 self-catering centre and 1 reception centre. There are 5230 places which leads to an occupancy rate of 84.6%. 38% of the occupants were single males, 27% partners in a marriage or a different form of family life, 24% in lone parent families and 11% single women.1 Seven centres are state-owned: seven state-owned centres are: Knockalisheen, Co. Clare; Kinsale Road, Cork City; Atlas House, Killarney; Atlas House, Tralee; Johnston Marina, Tralee; Park Lodge , Killarney; Athlone.
By end of 2015 4696 asylum seekers were accommodated in the Direct Provision system across 35 reception centres.2 They included two self-catering facilities which can accommodate up to 128 persons which are used for exceptional reasons such as where there is a medical necessity. RIA spent €57.025 million in respect of the accommodation of asylum seekers in 2015, an increase of 4.7% on the 2014 outturn.3 26% of the occupants were lone parent families with 44% percent being single males. Only 9% were single females.
One centre in Dublin (Balseskin reception centre), with a capacity of 320, is designated as a reception centre where all newly arrived asylum seekers are accommodated.
Two of the reception centres are self-catering (one in Dublin and one in County Louth) with a capacity of 128 and a current occupancy of 117. There are 7 single male only accommodation centres. There is one female-only reception centre in Killarney named Park Lodge. The centre has an occupancy rate of 39 out of 55 places.4
According to the Working Group report “as of 16 February 2015, adult males accounted for 38% of the residents with adult females accounting for 28% and children accounting for 34%. Of the children, some 594 are recorded as having been born in the State.”5
From Balseskin Reception Centre, where the person usually spends several weeks, the person is then dispersed to one of the other accommodation centres, usually outside of Dublin. An applicant does not have a choice regarding where they are sent. The process for sending an applicant to particular centres is not set out in law and RIA stated that this is an ‘informal practice’ primarily based on a variety of factors that include: not overburdening a particular area, capacity in accommodation centres and the profile of the individual which includes specific medical needs, religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, social and family profile.6
Only three of the RIA properties were built with the express purpose of accommodating asylum seekers. The majority of the properties are buildings which had a different initial purpose i.e. former hotels, guesthouses, hostels, former convents / nursing homes, a holiday camp and a mobile home site.7
All reception centres are operated by private external service providers who have a contract with RIA. Seven centres are owned by the Irish State with the remainder privately owned. Executive responsibility for the day-to-day management of reception centres lies with the private agencies, which provide services such as accommodation, catering, housekeeping etc.
RIA retains overall responsibility for the accommodation of applicants for international protection in the direct provision system. The Minister for Justice and Equality has stated that residents are not ‘in the care’ of the State but rather the State has a ‘duty of care’ which it discharges via external contractors.8
Unaccompanied children are under the care of Tusla (Children and Family Agency) until they turn 18. This means they should be in either a residential home or a supported lodging or foster care settings until, at least, their 18th birthday. Children referred to the Tusla will initially be placed in a registered and inspected residential home for children. There are four such homes in Dublin used for the purposes of housing unaccompanied children who are referred to the Social Work Team for Separated Children, based in Dublin. Each home has a maximum occupancy of 6 children at any one time. Children who are under the age of 12 are placed in a foster family upon referral. Those who are over 12 are typically placed with a foster family, or supported lodging, after some time, this could be weeks or months. Sometimes, a child remains in the residential home until they reach the age of 18. This usually happens where the child is nearing their 18th birthday. There may, however, be other reasons for keeping a child in the residential home for longer. These reasons could relate to medical, educational or other needs.9
In cases where the child is age-disputed, or an ‘unrecognised minor’, the young person may be placed in Direct Provision accommodation. This means that the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner has taken the view that the asylum applicant is an adult. It should be noted that the the International Protection Act 2015 (see above) introduces a new provision for age assessment under which permits a medical examination to determine the age of an unaccompanied child. In May 2015 the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) published a report on its inspection of the child protection and welfare services provided to children living in direct provision accommodation in four of the Child and Family Service Areas (see section on Special Reception Needs).
As for people living outside the Direct Provision system, their personal circumstances are unknown according to the Working Group report. The report shows that 55% of protection applications live outside of Direct Provision i.e. 4,330 persons.10 In terms of people who lived in Direct Provision and then subsequently left it for whatever reasons whilst their asylum application was pending for example support from family etc., anecdotal information suggests that it may be difficult for them to access the Direct Provision system again should their situation change.
According to Minister Fitzgerald, RIA are also working on the development of standards for the provision and maintenance of services in accommodation centres, enhancing the complaints mechanisms for residents of those centres and the provision of ongoing diversity and equality training and awareness programmes across all centres.11
- 1. Department of Justice and Equality, Reception and Integration Agency, Monthly statistics report December, available at: http://bit.ly/2lDrEGU.
- 2. Department of Justice and Equality, Reception and Integration Agency, Annual Report 2015, available at: http://bit.ly/2mW2IHA.
- 3. Ibid.
- 4. Department of Justice and Equality, Reception and Integration Agency, Monthly statistics report December, available at: http://bit.ly/2lDrEGU.
- 5. Ibid, para. 4.16, 154.
- 6. Corona Joyce and Emma Quinn, The Economic and Social Research Institute, ‘The Organisation of Reception Facilities for Asylum Seekers’, February 2014, available at: http://bit.ly/1IklPkR.
- 7. Ibid.
- 8. Corona Joyce and Emma Quinn, The Economic and Social Research Institute, ‘The Organisation Of Reception Facilities For Asylum Seekers’, February 2014, available at: http://bit.ly/1IklPkR.
- 9. Samantha Arnold, ‘Closing a Protection Gap 2.0, Irish National Report’, available at: http://bit.ly/1JA3T28.
- 10. Ibid, 66.
- 11. Response to parliamentary question by Minister Fitzgerald, question no. 23, 16 December 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2me7XnA.