Children & Direct Provision
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Children in DP
This Christmas we are bringing presents to kids in DP centres and last September we sourced school uniforms for children in DP. This begs the question, what is it like for the kids living in these centres? Why do we feel they need help?
When I go to centres, one thing I notice is there are a lot of single mams and their children. The kids are always gorgeous and so cute. The centres can be quite basic and cramped. About two months ago I brought donations to a centre in Wexford. The centre was small, like an old school or something. In it there was one main room with about 30 people in it. 50% of the people in that room were women and their infants. The other half we're men watching a match they had on the telly. I was eating with the women in the main room and at some point I joked with the women and said " i'm sure there are a load of battles over what programmes to put on TV". They laughed and replied "the men control the remote". There we're kids there ranging from 0 - 13. I had brought chocolate to this centre and the kids were beyond excited. It hit me pretty quick that this centre was in the middle of nowhere, it was run down and there was nothing for the kids to do there. I chatted to the moms about this and one of them said they we're building a playground out back. Also one of the girls who runs DPDrops Wexford got them bikes which has made a great difference. It's not the first time i've been to a centre where they we're building part of the centre. The fact asylum seekers have to build basic parts of their centre it doesn't sit right with me. I ended up at that centre in Wexford as I befriended a young mother in a centre in Dublin, she has a 2 year old that was born here. I had met her on a Sunday in August in a centre near Dublin Airport. At the end of our meeting I said " see you soon". The next day she received a notice that her and her 2 year old were to be moved to Wexford. That Tuesday she found herself living in the middle of nowhere in Wexford. I'm glad she reached out to me, we got DPDrops wexford involved and got donations to her in the centre (nappies, baby formula, clothes etc.). After a while this mother summed up the courage to ask us to help her source a desk so she could continue her studies. Thanks to your donations, we got her a desk. But the fact she was moved so suddenly is not rare and this causes kids to have to be moved school over night, without resources to support there education. DP centres were not built to raise children, yet some have been home to kids that entered an infant and left an adult. Almost 2000 kids are currently growing up in DP centres. (1) Some kids are in Ireland with no parents at all whilst those that are with there parents rely on a small weekly stipend (29.80 for kids). This can leave it hard to afford the basics for kids such as school uniforms, shoes, winter clothes etc. Children in DP face numerous challenges. They face racism, lack of access to school supports and after school activities, lack of privacy, space and stability. With the length of time spent in DP ranging from less than a year to more than 10 years, many children are spending a huge part of their formative years in Direct Provision Centres.. (1)
With their parents on a small stipend and some kids being in Ireland with no parents at all children in DP face numerous challenges. They face racism, lack of access to school supports and after school activities, lack of privacy, space and stability.
With the length of time spent in DP ranging from less than a year to more than 10 years, many children are spending a huge part of their formative years in Direct Provision Centres.
Racism & Isolation & Education
‘Direct Division’, a recent report published by the Ombudsman for Children, interviewed 73 children across 9 different centres about their experiences. These children expressed that they frequently experienced racial slurs both in the community, and at school, with discriminatory sentiments coming from both students and teachers alike. (3) A lack of transport services also means many children are unable to engage in after school or extracurricular activities, isolating them further from their peers. (5) In 2019, DP resident Donnah Vuma told the Oireachtas Committee for Justice and Equality how this exclusion had affected her nine year old son, as he began showing signs of depression; “He has come to me and said, ‘sometimes when I feel sad I feel like killing myself’.” (4)
The lack of privacy and security also weighs heavily on many, with children reporting that their rooms are often entered and inspected by staff with no notice. (3)
Many of the older children expressed worry about how they would progress to a third-level education, as access is essentially non-existent for asylum seekers, and the PLC scheme disqualifies any student who hasn’t been in the Irish education system for at least 3 years. The previous system was based off a 5 year attendance, however in 2019 this was reduced to 3.
“What about those that haven’t lived in Ireland for five years and finished their leaving. What are they supposed to do? Stay home, waste their lives and time?” [13-18 years] (2)
A further cause for concern is the protection and support of separated or unaccompanied minors. In 2019, 129 unaccompanied children (mainly between 15-17) were referred to the Child and Family Agency (TUSLA). (4) Unaccompanied minors are initially placed in the care of the Health Service Executive (HSE). They have a social worker and are often placed into foster care or homes with support. However, as they reach 18 these young people are then transferred to a DP centre, upending their lives and everything they have come to know; finding themselves in shared accommodation with little to no support. As a result they are at particular risk of being traumatised or exploited. (1)
The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) reported that 14% of all children in DP were referred to TUSLA in a single year, compared to 1.6% in the general population of children. Referral reasons included physical abuse, domestic violence and proximity of unknown adults. (2)
Comments from kids in DP
“People should stop knocking on our doors while being drunk at night” [8-12 years] (2)
“I just want to live in a house with a garden so I can play football” [8-12 years] (2)
One child recalled their experience of racism on a school trip:
"There was [a] school trip and it was going past the [accommodation] centre and one person on the bus said 'Oh the zoo is coming'. They think we are like animals...There was a friend of mine who was on the bus who actually lived here, but she pretended she didn't."
"A friend said 'Irish people are paying for everything for you' and that made me feel uncomfortable. I felt confused and I did not want anyone to see me living here. I felt sad because it is not my choice to be here.I could get papers and if I didn’t have troubles in my own country, I would not be here. I felt scared because she knows where I live'."
Fiona Finn, CEO of Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre based in Cork said “it’s entirely unsurprising, to see how growing up in segregated accommodation, outside of the community and with minimal financial support, leads to children feeling othered and stigmatised.”
“The system of DP is in direct conflict with a child’s right to an adequate standard of living” states former Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Prof Geoffrey Shannon. (4) And while the government has committed to ending DP during its term (6), there are no assurances of what will take its place, and countless children will grow up confined in a room with strangers, unable to run, jump and play between now and then.
(If you want to hear more first hand experiences of children growing up in DP be sure to listen to the full podcast by Wura. We will also be showcasing more peoples experiences on our page over time. )
What we are doing to help
As we enter the Christmas season, a time of joy for so many, please help us spread some of that cheer to the children and families who will be spending Christmas, and the foreseeable future, in a Direct Provision centre. Through the Let’s Help GoFundMe and our Patreon we will be providing gifts, necessities and vouchers to the children and residents of Direct Provision centres all over the country. Please join us in spreading some Christmas cheer and letting these people know that they are welcome, and valued.
To donate please visit:
Written by Siobhan Casey
Personal account written by Louisamay Hanrahan