The Irish Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) published a special report Thursday that criticizes the Irish government’s failure to properly safeguard vulnerable children in the country’s overwhelmed international protection system.
The special report focuses on three key recommendations made by the OCO in 2021 following an investigation into how the state houses asylum-seeking families. It found systemic deficiencies in inspection standards and access to complaints procedures for children living in direct provision accommodations or emergency shelters. According to the report, with the arrival of over 65,000 Ukrainian refugees this year, accommodations intended as temporary housing have become long-term living without essential protections. The report also alleges that thousands of asylum-seeking and Ukrainian children still reside in hotels never designed for child welfare.
In February 2021, the Irish Government published the White Paper on Ending Direct Provision. The paper establishes a variety of measures aimed at replacing the system of Direct Provision with a not-for-profit accommodation model and sets out a roadmap towards establishing an alternate international protection support service by 2024. However, the Ombudsman notes government targets to end direct provision by 2024 already look unrealistic given the slow progress in acquiring new housing.
The report also criticizes the lack of robust oversight for the majority of centers housing children. While some state-run facilities may soon face inspections, emergency sites are exempted despite housing many unaccompanied minors long-term. The report further alleges that few vulnerable children receive the required vulnerability assessments within 30 days, delaying support.
In addition to the findings in the report by the OCO, the country report from the Irish Refugee Council revealed that children accounted for 18% of the total number of applicants seeking protection status in Ireland in 2022. Previously, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) have renewed calls for Ireland to overhaul its system of direct provision accommodation for asylum seekers. In its submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the IHREC urged the Irish government to implement long-standing recommendations to replace direct provision with alternative housing arrangements.