The number of children living long-term in the direct provision system has gone up by 50% in the past year.
Figures provided to Galway TD Denis Naughten by the Department of Children show that the number of children in direct provision for 5 years or longer has gone up from 110 in October of last year, to 165 this month.
Deputy Naughten criticised the length of time that people, especially children, are spending in the system, saying that anyone who has seen the facilities in person is aware of the “mental health, psychological and emotional issues” faced by people stuck in it.
“The Direct Provision system was never supposed to provide long term accommodation and it is never acceptable that people should spend years in that system,” Denis Naughten said.
“As I have said in the past in Dáil Éireann on numerous occasions, having nothing to do and all day to do it, in the Direct Provision system, is not good for any individual or their mental health.”
He compared it with the experience of living in lockdown that Irish people have coped with at numerous times in the past 18 months, adding that it is comparatively worse to endure such restrictions for up to seven years.
“Children have been born and, in some instances, have gone through their primary education living in these direct provision facilities.”
The recently crowned Miss Ireland, Galway girl Pamela Ube was one of those children. She came to Ireland with her parents and younger siblings at the age of seven, and her family spent the better part of a decade in Direct Provision, until the year she started college.
In total there are 725 people in Ireland, adults and children, who have been in the direct provision system for at least five years.
Under direct provision, adults receive a small weekly stipend, but are not allowed to work until at least six months has passed, at which time a special application must be made for permission to seek employment.
The reply from the department said that these figures only represent people who have had an uninterrupted stay in a centre, and does not include those who may have left and had to return for whatever reason.
They also only related to people who have registered with the International Protection Office (IPO) and “do not reflect children resident in the centres who may not have been registered by their parents.”
The department also said that between January and September of this year, 900 people have been moved out of direct provision centres to live in the community.
The government published plans back in February to end the direct provision system by 2024, but Sinéad Gibney, chief of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, told the Dáíl Committee on public petitions this week that some commitments are already slipping.