The Government needs to do a lot more to help people to transition from the Direct Provision system into mainstream society, according to a report published today by the Irish Refugee Council.
It calls on the coalition to provide a resettlement grant and other assistance like permission to study and work before leaving the system.
Today's report titled 'Transition: from Direct Provision to Life in the Community' is based on interviews with 22 former asylum seekers, 12 of whom had transitioned out of Direct Provision and ten of whom were attempting to so.
The Refugee Council calls on the State to support people leaving Direct Provision after having their status regularised in the same way as it helps programme refugees who have been invited here in groups from world trouble-spots.
It says that 18 months ago, several months after getting their official papers, 679 people remained in Direct Provision.
It highlights the shortage of rental accommodation as a major factor, especially in cities.
It blames the near-absence of targeted supports for exacerbating the difficulties of people in transition and calls for strategic planning, and more information and support.
Among the innovations advocated are:
- A resettlement grant to help with the cost of transition
- Special help with home rental deposits and rent itself
- A specialist Department of Social Protection officer to deal with asylum seekers
An improvement on the €19.10 weekly allowance to adults in Direct Provision centres and slightly smaller payment in respect of children and the provision of self-catering accommodation for residents.
And strategies for better integration into local communities.
At the moment it is standard procedure for Refugee Integration Agency to issue residents who are leaving with a letter giving them 21 days to vacate a Direct Provision centre.
Minister of State responsible for Immigration, Integration and Equality David Stanton launched the report, which was funded by the Irish Research Council and written by Maeve Foreman, Assistant Professor of Social Work at Trinity College, Dublin and Dr Muireann Ní Raghallaigh, Assistant Professor of Social Work at UCD.
The Minister said that, notwithstanding its small sample size, "it brings to light the frustrations and emotions experienced by the people concerned".
He said a lot of changes had been put in train by his Department since last year's publication of Judge Bryan McMahon's Government-commissioned review of Direct Provision.
He said the key challenge is the length of time that people spend in the accommodation, particularly families and that the primary objective arising from the McMahon Report was to tackle the existing caseload in the first instance and to overhaul the existing asylum processing system in the second.
He said the current Government has given the implementation of the International Protection Act the highest priority and that a sound but efficient application process, which it sets about providing, will obviate the knock-on issues that the McMahon Report - and today's IRC study - have highlighted.
He added that the information booklet referred to in this study "Your Guide to Independent Living" was published earlier this year and that it is "a truly, excellent resource of practical information". He added that the Citizens Information Board, supported by a range of other State agencies, provided information sessions within the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) - or Direct Provision - centres to former asylum-seekers who have permission to stay in the State.
It can be downloaded from RIA's website and the Minister said it will soon be available for download in five languages: Urdu; Pashtu; Farsi; French and Arabic.
Minister Stanton said he plans to build on this initiative to develop a transitional programme for people leaving the Direct Provision system that will enable them to have access to information and support when accessing key services.
On housing, he said his colleagues, Ministers Coveney and Varadkar are actively engaged on this issue and the former's action plan unveiled yesterday provides an important framework within which planning can be undertaken on housing for refugees and those leaving the Direct Provision system.