A conference on the issues facing asylum seekers has heard children as young as 11 have threatened suicide as a result of their living conditions.
The "Living in Limbo" conference in Galway is examining the issues that face those living in Direct Provision accommodation at more than 30 centres across the State.
This is the system for those seeking asylum or subsidiary protection in Ireland.
Irish Refugee Council Chief Executive Sue Conlon said this type of accommodation needs to be brought to an end.
A third of 4,500 people living in Direct Provision are children.
Ms Conlon described it as institutionalised living that dehumanised people.
She said it had a particular impact on children of school going age.
The Refugee Council said people are just stagnating in the system; they cannot move on and make a contribution to Irish society.
In some cases, entire families are living in rooms 10.5sq.ft.
One Nigerian lady attending the conference, who is living in Direct Provision in Salthill, said the system was taking people's dignity, self-esteem and confidence.
She said the experience was "eating people up".
The woman called on the Government to give people a chance to show their skills and talents, so they could demonstrate the positive contribution they could make to Irish society.