Human rights campaigning wins in Ireland in the end

At the All Party Parliamentary Group for refugees Nick Henderson from the Irish Refugee Council told us about the “Direct Provision” Accommodation Centres in the Irish Republic.

Asylum Seekers live in these privately run Accommodation Centres whilst their case is being assessed.  They were originally meant for short stays when started in 2001, but are now used for much longer one’s and the median stay is 27 months.  Around 7,000 people are currently housed like this.

Those housed there have little privacy, no cooking facilities, and they are excluded from any community life.  Nearly 2,000 are sharing bedrooms with people they are not related to.  Guardians who manage it appear to have oversight of children from families in there, which causes a lot of problems for the future as well as present.

The Centres are very expensive to run and there has been a lot of opposition to them from Human Rights groups since they were started in 2001.  The system could not be amended to be done better, but needed to be replaced.  One woman said that dignity, independence and freedom had been taken from her and her children had lost their self-confidence.

In the last general election in Ireland the Green Party had a commitment in their manifesto to replace these centres with a completely different way of housing, and this has been taken on board by the Irish Government, and now has all party support.  This is due to be completed by 2024.  It won’t be run by private companies but our equivalent of Social Housing providers, with welfare at their heart.

Three lessons from this.

  1. Plans in the new accommodation centres for asylum seekers in the UK are wrong, and benefit nobody.
  2. Even if in for a long haul, keep on campaigning.  This has taken 20 years, which is too long, but at least the campaigners have got there.
  3. It is well worth minor parties putting things in their manifestos.

* Suzanne Fletcher was a councillor for nearly 30 years and a voluntary advice worker with the CAB for 40 years. Now retired, she is active as a campaigner in the community both as a Lib Dem and with local organisations. She is Liberal Democrat Seekers of Sanctuary's parliamentary and external relations officer.

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