The number of people in the country’s shamed direct provision system has increased, despite two damning reports into its failings.
The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service says 4,696 asylum seekers and refugees were in direct provision centres at the end of 2015, a 7.6% increase on the number in 2014.
INIS said the increase was due to a rise in the number of asylum applications between 2014 and 2015 and noted the trend had been on a downward slide prior to that.
But the extra numbers being accommodated in the system comes just months after the Oireachtas Public Services Oversight Committee found it “not fit for purpose” and a Department of Justice working group made 173 recommendations to change the way it operates.
Sue Conlan, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council, said despite the problems with the system being laid bare, it had actually become more entrenched as the State’s response to asylum seekers.
“We had 34 centres before the two reports were published and now we have 35, so direct provision became more entrenched, which was very disappointing and it’s certainly a bit of a setback.”
When direct provision was introduced in 2000, it was envisaged that asylum applicants would be in the system for a maximum of six months. Accommodation was basic and facilities limited as a result.
But half of those in the system last year had been there five years or longer and remain prohibited from cooking for themselves or taking on employment, receiving a weekly subsistence payment of €19.10 per adult.
Both reports found high levels of stress among residents and raised concerns about their long- term wellbeing, particularly among children.
A few of the working group’s recommendations were adopted. Since last September residents in direct provision have been exempted from the prescription charge and since January, children have had their weekly allowance increased from €9.60 to €15.60, although the working group had wanted it trebled.