With the introduction of the Reception Conditions Regulations, there is now an express right of access to accommodation centres, subject to limitations. The Regulations provide access to a list of people and organisations including family members, legal advisors, UNHCR and other relevant NGOs. This access is specifically granted “in order to assist the recipient”. This list does not include, for example, friends of applicants or journalists.
The right of access for the people and organisations listed is stated to be limited only to the extent necessary to ensure the security of the accommodation centre and its residents.
The right of access to accommodation centres for guests was the subject of litigation in the case of C.A. and T.A. In that case, the Court held that the complete prohibition on guests in bedrooms was unlawful finding that resident’s rooms could be protected as their ‘home’ under Article 40(5) of the Constitution.
It remains the case in practice that access is granted on a discretionary basis with permission being subject to approval from IPAS or the centre management. Residents may invite guests into the centres, but they are confined to the communal areas. According to the House Rules and Procedures for Reception and Accommodation Centres, visiting is generally allowed between 10am and 10pm (8pm for children unless they are with a parent / guardian). The centre manager may restrict the number of visitors at any one time if s/he believes there might be a health and safety risk. The centre manager may also refuse entry or ask visitors to leave is s/he has reason to believe they may cause a threat to residents or centre property. In this case, the centre manager will notify IPAS the reasons for such a refusal.
In general, access depends on the relationship between the person seeking access and IPAS or the management of the hostel in question. The Irish Refugee Council for example has been refused access to some centres but given access to others. In other anecdotal examples, some election candidates for local elections were also refused entry to accommodation centres as well as a parish priest in another incident. In November 2019, a candidate in a bi-election for the Irish parliament visited a Direct Provision centre to directly meet with protection applicants after claiming children as young as three could have been influenced or manipulated by ISIS before arriving in Ireland. The comments, and the subsequent visit, were widely criticised. The Working Group report recommended that IPAS ensure in Direct Provision centres that rooms without CCTV are available for receiving visitors, social workers, legal representatives and other advocates. According to Nasc’s review of the Government’s progress reports on implementation of the Working Group recommendations, implementation of this recommendation could not be verified. No detailed information in relation to this information had been provided in any of the Government’s three progress reports and IPAS failed to respond to Nasc’s request for information.
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, all visits to Direct Provision centres and temporary accommodation centres were suspended, except in circumstances whereby the visit was deemed to be for an essential purpose.
 Regulation 7(6)(b) Reception Conditions Regulations 2018.
 Regulation 7(7) Reception Conditions Regulations 2018.
 House Rules and Procedures for Reception and Accommodation Centres, January 2019.
 Working Group to report to Government on Improvements to the Protection Process, including Direct Provision and Supports to Asylum Seekers, Final Report, June 2015, para.4.122, 176.
 Nasc, Working Paper on the Implementation of the Working Group Recommendations, December 2017. 48.