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Ireland reforms its asylum seeker system

28 November 20170 comments

Adult asylum seekers in Ireland will be allowed to work, the Irish Government has announced, overturning two decades of the country’s controversial ‘direct provision’ policy.

Ireland’s Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan announced the change this week acknowledging there has been increasing criticism of the policy.

“Adults who will soon have access to the labour market will also see their capacity for economic independence enhanced in line with the finding of the Supreme Court,” he said.

He was referring to the recommendations of a 2015 report compiled by Irish Supreme Court Justice Bryan McMahon recommending improvements to the system.

Currently, around 50 people seeking asylum arrive in Ireland every week.

The ‘direct provision’ system, introduced as a temporary measure almost 20 years ago, forces asylum seekers to live in designated centres on less than 22 Euros ($A34) a week, with no chance to work, to cook their own food, or enter third level education.

Mr Flanagan said a key recommendation in Justice McMahon’s report was to address the length of time taken to process applications, which leads to long stays in State provided accommodation.

He said that Ireland now has a single application procedure which was “the biggest reform to our protection process in two decades”.

“It means that an applicant will have all aspects of their claim, refugee status, subsidiary protection status, and permission to remain, examined and determined in one process. Our intention is to provide first instance decisions in the shortest possible time-frame,” he said.

Mr Flanagan said that the landscape of processing and delay has changed.

He said that when Justice McMahon’s report was published in 2015, 36 per cent of applicants were in the direct provision system for three years or less.

This figure is now 72 per cent, which he said “represents a radical improvement”.

An increase to the disposable income for adults and children living in direct provision was made in August.

“Since the Justice McMahon report, we have more than doubled the weekly rate of direct provision allowance for children.

The move came after more than 30 groups and organisations from around Ireland called for an end to direct provision at marches around the country.

Lucky Khambule, from the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, said the marches were focused on getting the right to work for all asylum seekers.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist