Tag Archives: Direct Provision

Hmmm.

Meanwhile…

Yesterday: Direct Protection

Earlier: Meanwhile In Timahoe

Previously: “I’ve Seen Some Misleading Information On Social Media”

“Public Health Measures Must Apply To All”

Forced Together

No Room To Isolate

“Please Start Moving People Now”

Rollingnews

Elizabeth Canavan , Deputy Assistant Secretary General at the Department of Taoiseach in Government Buildings

This afternoon.

Government Buildings. Dublin 2.

“As I mentioned previously COVID-19 Illness Benefit is available to any person employed and self-employed who is diagnosed with COVID-19, or who has been advised that they are a probable source of infection of COVID-19 and is self-isolating.

As of this week that will also include workers who live in Direct Provision. This will ensure that these workers can follow the relevant health advice in relation to COVID-19 with the same confidence that there are financial supports in place to assist them.

In addition with effect from this week the Pandemic Unemployment Payment is available to people living in Direct Provision centres as well as applicants for International Protection who live in the community outside the Direct Provision system.”

Deputy Assistant Secretary General at the Department of Taoiseach, Elizabeth Canavan

COVID Benefits for those in Direct Provision (Gov.ie)

Rollingnews

Meanwhile…

Back to school!

WHEN!?

From top: Protest outside Leinster House earlier this month calling for the end of Direct Provision; Imran Khurshid

As the new government is formed, we all have an opportunity to set forth; what matters to us, what kind of society we are and above all ask, do we treat others equally.

Ireland has a troubled history with its own identity for generations. There’s no denying that. The cultural divisions from the civil war are only now perhaps being laid to rest with this new government. The national division of families who prefer rugby over GAA (and vice versa) is potentially ending as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil enter a coalition government.

What was once thought of as unthinkable, has now changed and ‘changed utterly’. Indeed, change has to be accepted before you can change anything else. That’s life and well… politics.

One aspect of Irish life that can and must change, is our immigration policy. It’s wasteful and at times, unjust. I’d like to address a few issues we can and should change in the near future.

Direct Provision

Across Ireland, there are approximately 47 ‘Direct Provision’ (DP) centres to house and feed over 7,000 who seek international protection within Ireland.

Adults and children within them get a state allowance of €38.80 and €29.80, respectively, a week along with medical care. As well as those in ‘DP’ there are over 1,600 in emergency accommodation. It’s expensive.

Hotels, B&Bs are all included in the bill which cost €129.4 million last year. Even then the total costs of providing legal and other state supports must be quite high on top of that.

That said, for those in need and considering the wider problems of affordable accommodation, it does have its advantages as a stop gap for those awaiting their decision. The problem is that applicants are caught within the system for years unable to progress in their lives as a result of this system.

While only recently the Supreme Court did decide that those in direct provision could work after waiting for nine months if they hadn’t received a decision on their asylum application, albeit in a highly restricted manner designed to limit employment opportunities.

One of the positive takeaways from the Covid crisis is that the former government sought recommendations from the former secretary general of the European Commission, Dr. Catherine Day.

She proposed extending the right to work, reducing the application process times, a move to alternative housing and funding models among many other potential changes. Proposals no doubt welcomed by so many caught within the system.

Sadly during the past while, most of the conversation in the media was taken up by a substandard Kerry DP centre becoming a cluster of Covid cases.

Unfortunately, the former Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar merely conceded that there was some substandard accommodation within DP centres during a recent Dáil debate about the matter.

Now, let’s change that conversation.

At the heart of it all, let’s think long term about this. Let’s ask, what do we want as a country? Do we want genuine integration and diversity within Irish society to strength it with a sense of empathy versus sowing the seeds of division and nativism?

Is it fair for the Irish Government to lobby for Irish immigration reform in the USA while millions of other nationals there would become ‘others’ in the political conversation about immigration policy?

If Ireland adopts alternatives to the current system and work proactively at integration efforts from day one, we would reduce the overall cost of the system and create opportunities for applicants to share their skills and expertise within our economy.

While the current accommodation crisis means it would be unfeasible to end DP immediately, there is a lot we could do.

For instance, compulsory language and culture classes within DP centres, the right to work from the date of application, registration with relevant authorities for employment and volunteer opportunities can and, in my opinion, should be done. In many other countries similar programmes take place and it is time we accept that we can learn from such expertise.

Work Permits

As our offices, bars, hotels and restaurants slowly reopen as we enter Phase 3 of our reopening plan, we must consider the wide variety of workers who depend on our work permit system. There are two procedures, the work permit application and the visa application on top of it, if you are so required.

A work permit begins with an application to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) which requires a number of application documents. If they’re successful, they then apply for a work visa if so required by their nationality. A work permit alone may cost an employee a non-refundable €1,000.

Though if a work visa application from the Department of Justice and Equality gets denied: they are caught short. Often in my legal practice, assisting clients in such cases they are repeatedly informed that their employer’s reference letter is not sufficient on the basis of the quality of the paper or that the use of a Hotmail or Yahoo email account for the business are not accepted.

Not all businesses have the capacity or time to set up their own email domain and it is frankly ridiculous to have physical paper quality determine if a willing and capable worker is denied the opportunity to contribute to Ireland’s economy.

If the DBEI accepts employment and supporting documents, why can’t Justice do the same? Are there no interdepartmental guidelines on such matters?

From my experience dealing with a diverse range of clients, I believe there are none. To change it, I suggest that one department carries out the full checks and a subsequent department is not able to object to them.

This would save applicants their fee and the considerable resources used by the state in this convoluted system. Consistency and the rigours of fairness must apply to all applicants under the law.

Naturalisation applications

Naturalisation is the process of becoming an Irish citizen after fulfilling the legal criteria. Recently, there was a change to the system and applicants no longer have to wait years for their decision.

Yet in my experience, while most applicants only need few months to hear the result of their application decision, some wait years. That’s outright unfair and unjust.

Occasionally these delays result in Judicial Review proceedings, which are challenges on the delay or process that the applicant has endured. Court orders to command the Minister of the day to make decisions in these matters, happen. However, like many other aspects of Ireland’s immigration policy in practice, it is extremely costly on everyone.

Applicants have to ‘take it on the chin’ that for years their lives, will be in limbo. This has profound financial, social and mental health impacts on applicants. For most, it means their families remain divided as the onerous financial criteria on applicants stay until they become citizens.

As the world economy adapts to many international changes after the Covid crisis, we should take stock of how we accept others in Irish society with these potential changes.

After all, we are changing our government, so let’s change this too.

Imran Khurshid is a solicitor practicing in the area of immigration law. He contested the local elections for Fianna Fáil in Dublin’s north inner city in 2019.

RollingNews

From top: Protest at The Skellig Star Hotel  on Monday evening; Ken Foxe

This afternoon.

In March, a confirmed Covid-19 case was recorded at the Travelodge in Swords, Dublin before a number of asylum seekers were moved out of the hotel to Direct Provision centres, including Skellig Star Hotel, Cahersiveen, County Kerry.

At least 25 residents of the Skellig Star Hotel have tested positive for Covid-19.

Journalist Ken Foxe has obtained – under FOI – a timeline of events contained in minutes of meetings of the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) revealing how the Department of Justice and Equality responded to the unfolding scandal…

Last Night: “I Have Verifiable Evidence”

This morning.

From 11am.

The Special Committee on Covid-19 Response will meet in the Dáil chamber.

They will discuss the Government’s response to Covid-19 in nursing homes, in the first two sessions at 11.10am and 2pm respectively, and direct provision centres, in the third session at 4.30pm.

Some 54 per cent of the 1,606 Covid-related deaths in Ireland took place in nursing homes, while there have been 13 clusters and 171 cases overall in direct provision centres. At least 25 residents of the Skellig Star Hotel in Caherciveen, Co Kerry (top) which was turned into a direct provision centre in March, have tested positive.

It’s being reported that Nursing Homes Ireland CEO Tadhg Daly will tell the committee, in his opening address, that “the dismay will live forever with us” and:

“We were exasperated. The sector required a specific plan. We knew that Covid-19 disproportionately impacts on older people. The planning and focus was almost exclusively on our acute hospitals. Multiple clusters initially emerged in our hospitals. But the numbers in nursing homes started to increase.”

According to the meeting’s schedule, those appearing before the committee include CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland Tadhg Daly, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy Mervyn Taylor, CEO of HIQA Phelim Quinn, and representatives from the HSE and the Department of Justice.

The committee meeting can be watched above or here

Meanwhile, a transcript of last week’s committee meeting can be read in full here.

Previously: Covid 19 And Older People: A Shameful Time For Change

An Uncomfortable Truth Out Of Sight

“Please Start Moving People Now”

‘Modern Problem’.

A  hard-hitting new investigative podcast hosted by Mayo-born journalist, broadcaster and writer Jane Mc Namara (above).

Modern Problem seeks to examine ‘new incarnations of old problems’.

Jane writes:

In the first two episodes (above), I cast a critical eye over Ireland’s controversial system of direct provision – now in its 20th year and currently housing over 6,000 asylum seekers and refugees…

….The podcast features testimonials from a number of people currently seeking asylum in Ireland, vox pops from the general public, as well as insights from experts such as Lucky Khambule of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in ireland (MASI) and Fiona Hurley of NASC. the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre….

Modern Problem podcast

This morning.

Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

Above from left: Solidarity-People Before Profit TDs Richard Boyd Barrett, Mick Barry, Brid Smith and Paul Murphy on the plinth at Leinster House.

Last night in the Dáil, the situation in the Skelligs Star hotel, Cahirsiveen, County Kerry (top)  was raised with Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan following an outbreak of Covid-19 after 120 asylum seekers were moved from Dublin to the hotel.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said “somebody in your department [of Justice] decided to send applicants from overcrowded conditions, to remote hotels, some of them still overcrowded where they couldn’t’ socially isolate, where they share bathrooms and shower facilities, communal bathrooms and shared meals”.

Ms Smith added that testing began on April 14th at the hotel. Four people tested positive but it was only on April 28th that a dedicated medically qualified person was appointed to the Skelligs centre.

She said the Government contracted out responsibility to a private company “with no medical experience or expertise in public health who until this week had one cleaner with no public health experience cleaning 15 rooms in which people are infected”.

Mr Flanagan told the Dáil the Department only became aware that coronavirus was an issue following their arrival.

Department ‘didn’t know’ asylum seekers had virus before moving them to Kerry (irish Times)

Meanwhile…

Michael Healy Rae

Mr Healy Rae had previously stated he had nothing to do with the hotel. He had stated that he was involved in a tourism company, the Skellig Hotel Experience (SHE), and that another shareholder coincidentally had the lease to the hotel.

However, when it was pointed out to him yesterday that the Skellig Hotel Experience company, in which he was a 25% shareholder, held the lease until last December he said he was unaware of that.

“All I can tell you is I was involved in the company and I had nothing to do with the hotel.”

Michael Healy-Rae had shareholding in Skellig Hotel Experience (Michael Clifford, Irish Examiner)

Rollingnews

One room shared by seven asylum-seeking men in a direct provision centre opened in March in Ennis, Co Clare

This morning.

In The Irish Times.

Sorcha Pollak reports that asylum seekers living in direct provision who lost their jobs due to the pandemic have stopped receiving their Covid-19 unemployment payments.

Ms Pollak also reports that asylum seekers living outside direct provision who lost their jobs due to the pandemic continue to receive the payment.

She adds:

“Asked to clarify why the payment had stopped for those in the accommodation system, a spokeswoman for the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection said people in direct provision already had their “accommodation and other basic needs met by the State, and the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment is not available to them”.

“Some 1,208 people living in direct provision were working at the end of 2019, according to Department of Justice figures.”

Meanwhile…

Further to the Minister for Health Simon Harris confirming yesterday evening that there have been 164 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in direct provision centres, infectious disease specialist registrar in Cork University Hospital Dr Eamonn Faller told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland earlier…

“I’m concerned about anyone living in tightly congregated settings. I suppose direct provision centres or any tightly congregated settings are an absolute catastrophe in a pandemic of a highly transmissible airborne virus.

“This virus loves having people that are in close contact, where it can spread. And we’re seeing in the settings within direct provision where people don’t have the facility to social distance, we’re seeing huge increases in the numbers of cases.

“In the last five days, we’ve seen 165% increase from the 62 figure quoted on Sunday to the 164 figure quoted by Simon Harris in the Dáil yesterday.

“That, like those numbers are in keeping with a pandemic that is unfettered, that’s the three-day doubling time that we had at the very beginning and it’s because there are these people in tightly congregated settings that have no capacity to social distance.

“And haven’t really been given the capacity to social distance.”

He added:

“When someone tests positive in a direct provision centre, they are moved out of that centre. But of course that does leave people they were tightly congregated with, that leaves their contacts, that leaves other people within the centre and just because the person who was symptomatic that was tested has been moved out of the centre, it does not mean that still aren’t people that are asymptomatic spreading the virus in this tightly congregated setting where you can’t socially distance.”

Asked if widespread testing should now take place in direct provision centres, Dr Faller said:

“Yes, it absolutely should. I think we have, so there’s nine clusters, 164 cases now. We don’t know the proportion of people who are infected with this virus who are asymptomatic and given that, given the difficulties with social distancing in these centres, I think testing of all the residents and appropriate isolation would, that would be appropriate.”

Later, he added:

“If testing and meaningfully lowering the density of these centres doesn’t happen soon, then we’re just going to see this doubling time every three days, this massive increase in cases and I mean this isn’t just, this isn’t an issue affects the people in direct provision centres.

“This affects the people in the towns and villages that these direct provision centres are in. As well as being a massive concern for the people in direct provision, it’s a huge wider public health risk. We can’t lift restrictions, if we have active community spread. And if you have any pockets of active community spread, that’s active community spread for everyone.

“In this pandemic what’s bad for any one person, is bad for everybody. This isn’t a disparate group. The virus does not discriminate between groups. So if you have pockets of active infection then that is going to spread within the community.”

Listen back in full here

Related: Problems mount at Caherciveen Direct Provision centre (Michael Clifford, The Irish Examiner)

Yesterday: 164

Previously: “I’ve Seen Some Misleading Information On Social Media” (April 1, 2020)

“Please Start Moving People Now” (March 24, 2020)