Direct provision in Ireland

Dr Liam Thornton

Research by 2019 European Fellow Dr Liam Thornton has hit the headlines in recent days. Dr Thornton is assistant professor in the School of Law, University College Dublin, and a human rights law academic who has been examining legal aspects of the system of direct provision in Ireland for over a decade.

The phrase ‘direct provision’ is short-hand for the communal accommodation, food, low weekly payment, health and education rights that asylum seekers in Ireland are entitled to. Over the last (almost) two decades, there has been sustained criticism of the system of direct provision from asylum seekers subject to the system. Protests against the direct provision have not resulted in any significant shift away from government policy of asylum seeker institutionalisation and segregation. Successive governments have argued that direct provision is the only means by which asylum seekers will be able to access shelter, food, clothing and a weekly allowance.  Reports documenting the significant challenges for many asylum seekers over the last two decades have failed to convince governments to change their approach. Reform initiatives have partly achieved some of their limited aims, but have always been focused as having to accept direct provision as the only way to meet needs for asylum seekers. Only in 2018 was the system of direct provision given legislative form. Due to a Supreme Court decision, there is now a limited freedom to work for some asylum seekers. The system of direct provision has been discussed in the Oireachtas incessantly since its establishment. Some of its biggest detractors became its biggest supporters once in government.

From Dr Thornton’s project website,

Under the Freedom of Information Act, Dr Thornton has gathered over two decades of documentation, including internal Government discussions from 1997 until the direct provision system was placed on a statutory footing in 2018, as part of his new project exploring how the system emerged and developed. The Irish Times has now published several articles about Dr Thornton’s project, including:

Women in direct provision being ‘pushed into prostitution’ (17 November)

Alt-right groups stir local unease about immigrants (18 November)

Direct provision in Ireland: How and why the system was introduced (19 November)

Direct provision: Senior official disagreed with payment rise proposal (19 November)