Direct Provision centres
Available accommodation within the Direct Provision estate has been decreasing since 2016, due to a number of factors, including the expiry of contracts between IPAS and accommodation providers and the ongoing housing crisis, which is reducing available accommodation sites. During 2019, IPAS added 735 bed spaces to their portfolio, through an increase in the capacity of existing centres and with the opening of three new accommodation centres. IPAS also managed the closing of the Hatch Hall accommodation centre in Dublin, therefore the net increase in 2019 of bed spaces was 515 in total. Despite this, the rise in the number of applicants led to 1,559 protection applicants being placed in temporary accommodation by the end of 2019. As of September 2020, approximately 1,382 individuals were resident in emergency accommodation. As of December 2021, approximately 1,046 individuals were resident in emergency accommodation.
The Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration confirmed that accommodation in Direct Provision is prioritised for new arrivals, particularly families and other vulnerable people. In the experience of the Irish Refugee Council in 2020, requests for re-entry into Direct Provision under the Regulations – by people who had not taken up an initial offer of accommodation or have since experienced a change in their circumstance – have been refused on the ground of a lack of accommodation or have been subject to considerable delays. These delays have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In some cases, individuals were waiting up to ten days to re-access accommodation in circumstances where they were rendered homeless.
The personal circumstances of persons living outside Direct Provision are generally unknown. According to figures supplied by IPAS, as of January 2022, 902 international protection applicants were living outside Direct Provision in private rented accommodation. 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 to live with family members, a partner or friends, it is very difficult to access the Direct Provision system again, should their situation change.
IPAS ceased to publish data in 2018. The last statistics were contained in the RIA Monthly Report November 2018. IPAS has yet to issue any official data in relation to the accommodation of international protection applicants since it was created in 2019 as a result of the division of RIA in two sections. Nevertheless, some statistics for 2020 were made available by the Minister for Justice in response to parliamentary questions. The capacity and occupancy of Direct Provisions centres in 2019, 2020 and 2021 were as follows:
|Capacity and occupancy of Direct Provision centres|
|Accommodation centres (by county)|
The 2020 figures provided above on capacity and occupancy were valid as of August 2020 and September 2020 respectively. The 2021 figures were valid as of December 2021.
As of November 2021, approximately 7,089 people resided in Direct Provision and emergency accommodation.
Of those centres in the IPAS portfolio, only three were built (“system built”) for the express purpose of accommodating protection applicants. The majority of the portfolio comprises buildings, which had a different initial purpose i.e. former hotels, guesthouses (B&B), hostels, former convents / nursing Homes, a holiday camp and a mobile home site. IPAS is considering the option of moving towards a capital investment-based approach in the provision of accommodation that would involve building customised facilities.
There are seven single male only accommodation centres. There is one female-only reception centre in Killarney, Kerry, named Park Lodge. The centre has an occupancy rate of 44 out of 55 places.
The Balseskin reception centre, with a capacity of 537, is designated as a reception centre where all newly arrived protection applicants are accommodated. The centre as of 15 September 2020 had an occupancy rate of 264 out of 537 places.
Seven centres are state-owned: Knockalisheen, Clare; Kinsale Road, Cork; Atlas House Killarney, Atlas House Tralee, Johnston Marina and Park Lodge, Kerry; and Athlone, Westmeath. All reception centres are operated by private external service providers who have a contract with IPAS. 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. As of October 2020, there were 26 private companies that have a contract for services with the Department of Justice for the provision of premises that meet required standards and support services for protection applicants. Of these companies, two have a contract to provide management, catering, housekeeping and general maintenance services in state owned accommodation centres. It is the role of the Department of Justice to oversee the provision of these services, which has established a High Level Interdepartmental Group tasked with ensuring better coordination of provision of services and meeting needs in the short to medium term. Moreover, the National Standards developed establish a minimum set of standards for reception centres to meet by January 2021 if they are to continue providing services. The Department of Justice stated that to ensure compliance, an independent inspection mechanism would be established to monitor premises and services. The National Standards became legally binding on 1 January 2021. It was hoped that a mechanism for independent monitoring the implementation of the standards would be established soon thereafter, however inspections continued to be carried out by IPAS and a private contractor engaged by IPAS. In October 2021, Minister O’Gorman confirmed that that Direct Provision Accommodation Centres are to be monitored by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) for compliance with the National Standards. The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth is currently engaging with HIQA and the Department of Health with a view to undertaking the preparatory work with regard to HIQA’s monitoring role. In parallel with this process, the Health (Inspection of Emergency Homeless Accommodation and Asylum Seekers Accommodation) Bill is currently before the Dáil with a view to placing HIQA’s monitoring role on statutory footing.
IPAS 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.
Emergency Accommodation Beds
In September 2018, the Direct Provision estate reached capacity and no accommodation was available for newly arriving protection applicants, as the Balseskin centre had no available places. A precise figure is not available, but over the course of a single weekend, a minimum of 20 newly arrived protection applicants were not provided with any material receptions and were informed that no accommodation was available, rendering them homeless on arrival in Ireland. After intensive representations and media attention on the issue, alternative accommodation was provided by IPAS on an emergency basis. This involved the contracting of accommodation in hotels and holiday homes to house protection applicants on a temporary basis pending IPAS contracting for more permanent accommodation centres. These centres are known as “satellite centres”.
In 2021, this was still an ongoing issue, with accommodation centres still at capacity and protection applicants being placed by IPAS in emergency accommodation in hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfasts. As of June 2021, 1,360 protection applicants, 174 of whom were children, housed in emergency accommodation. This is an increase of almost seven times the number of people in emergency accommodation since in 2018, when 202 persons were residing in five hotels.
Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of new emergency accommodation centres were opened at extremely short notice in order to enable social distancing and avoid overcrowding. These included the contracting of an additional 650 beds at newly set up centres in Dublin, Galway and Cork, Galway. From 18 March 2020, approximately 100 asylum seekers were gradually moved from emergency centres in Dublin to the Skellig Star Hotel in Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry in order to reduce capacity in Direct Provision centres. This centre subsequently closed, and residents were moved out on a phased basis. It is understood that the last remaining residents were transferred from the centre in September 2020.However, given the sustained risk of COVID-19, emergency centres continued to operate so as to enable Direct Provisions residents to socially distance, and reduce over-crowding. These centres were also used to facilitate self-isolation for those who contracted COVID-19.
Additionally, throughout 2021, many newly arrived applicants were transferred to temporary accommodation centres following their isolation period due to lack of capacity in the Direct Provision System. Many newly arrived people – who were quarantined for extended periods and subsequently accommodated in temporary accommodation – found themselves unable to access support and information. New arrivals also experienced delays in completing their s.13 interview at the IPO. Until the completion of this interview, applicants were unable to access PPS numbers, Daily Expense Allowance or medical cards. This had serious implications for applicant’s mental health. Applicants also reported restricted access to food, hygiene products, laundry services and appropriate winter clothing while resident in post-quarantine temporary accommodation.
Despite a commitment by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, to decommission the use of emergency accommodation prior to year-end, 24 emergency accommodation centres remained in operation as of December 2021.
The living conditions in these emergency accommodation locations are clearly unsuitable for the needs of protection applicants and fail to fulfil IPAS’s obligations under the EU recast Reception Conditions Directive.
No statistics were made publicly available by IPAS on the capacity and occupancy of emergency accommodation locations in 2019, 2020 or 2021. The latest available data was contained in the RIA Monthly Report November 2018. IPAS has yet to issue any official data in relation to the accommodation of international protection applicants since it was created in 2019 as a result of the division of RIA in two sections. When the Department of Justice has been asked to provide information on the location and number of emergency accommodation, they have refused to give any detailed information. The data proportioned has been limited arguing that “RIA has a legal duty to protect the identities of persons in the international protection process and must be mindful of the right to privacy of applicants when responding to specific queries.”
Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres (EROC)
Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres (EROC) were specifically designed for the accommodation of persons arriving in Ireland through relocation and resettlement. There are three EROC with a total capacity of 375 places. As of 31 December 2021, there was a total contracted capacity of 545 places across three EROC centres and 430 individuals resided in three centres.
|Capacity and occupancy of EROC|
Source: RIA, Statistics, November 2018, https://bit.ly/3eKWyVB, Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, David Stanton, Reply to Parliamentary Question No 31, 20 November 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2Kun0Vz, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Roderic O’ Gorman, Reply to Parliamentary Question No 438, 20 October 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3ol0wrn.
 Information provided by IPAS, January 2022
 The capacity as of 30th June 2019 is the most up-to-date info for the year 2019 at the time this report is published, Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, David Stanton, Reply to Parliamentary Question No 361, 11 July 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/3bwKJjK.
 The occupancy as of 13 October 2019 is the most up-to-date info for the year 2019 at the time this report is published, Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, David Stanton, Reply to Parliamentary Question No 151, 17 October 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/34Y0yO7.
 Advisory Group on Direct Provision, Report of the Advisory Group on the Provision of Support including Accommodation to Persons in the International Protection Process, 21 October 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3qgSmC3, 119-121.
 Data provided by IPAS, January 2022.
 Houses of the Oireachtas and Joint Committee on Justice and Equality, Report on Direct Provision and the International Protection Application Process, December 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/3cRtb29.
 Department of Justice and Equality, Spending Review on Direct Provision, 15 August 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/3eVBtrx.
 Health (Inspection of Emergency Homeless Accommodation and Asylum Seekers Accommodation) Bill 2021.
 Irish Refugee Council, ‘Irish Refugee Council calls for Government to urgently address issue of people seeking asylum being made homeless’, 20 September 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2O37Dac.