By Caoimhe Killeen
Seven graduates of the LLM (International Rights) degree at NUI Galway have collaborated with the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) to research and author a report entitled “Direct Provision’s Impact on Children: A Human Rights Analysis” through NUI Galway’s Human Rights Law Clinic.
The report highlights how children’s human rights are being impacted on in the Direct Provision system and was also presented to Roderic O’Gorman, Minister for Children, Disability, Equality, and Integration. It was submitted to assist him in showing how Direct Provision separates children seeking asylum in Ireland from their peers, as well as a violation of human rights on a national, European, and international level.
It highlights a breach of rights in a wide range of areas from isolated accommodation, barriers to mental health and social care services, high costs for educational materials, lack of proper nutrition in centres and a lack of transparency in vetting and staff training for child protection.
It also criticised Tusla for their “lack of involvement” which “fails to properly address potential risk to children.” The students also criticised the new National Standards for Direct Provision, due to take effect next January, as it fails “to acknowledge the unsuitability of communal education for children” and does nothing “ to remedy the structural poverty enforced by the system.”
Róisín Dunbar, one of the seven graduate students who was involved in the project stated that this research was undertaken as part of the year–long Human Rights Law Clinic module supervised under Dr Maeve O’Rourke and took about six months to complete. “This module allowed LLM students to use our knowledge and skills to assist community-based projects focused on social change,” stated Roisin. The Clinic has also allowed students, like us, to develop and learn new skills needed for lawyers interested in human rights and social change.”
Evgeny Storn, an activist from MASI and sociologist, was responsible for creating the research project idea and working closely with the students on this project. ““This was one of the most useful collaborations I’ve had in the years of campaigning against the segregation which is Direct Provision,” stated Storn. “What has been done here, is an elaboration of a solid, robust, and well-grounded argument as to why Direct Provision needs to become a matter of the past. This is a fruitful collective action, where our expertise as activists has been fiercely supported by scholars of the Irish Centre for Human Rights.”
MASI’s mission is to provide “a platform for asylum seekers to join together in unity and purpose.” Their experience with the Direct Provision system and as people undergoing international processes of citizen application makes them “uniquely placed to offer direction to the Committee on Justice and Equality on these issues.”
“The abolishment of Direct Provision is something MASI have been advocating on for many years,” added Róisín.
“Evgeny of MASI highlighted the issues facing children in Direct Provision. Our initial literature review of our previous report found a lack of child rights material on Direct Provision further confirming the need to highlight the impact of Direct Provision on children.”
Róisín also shared her hopes for the report following its submission to Minister O’Gorman and the Government’s commitment to the abolition of Direct Provision. “We hope that this report will not only highlight the need for Direct Provision’s abolishment on a government level but also with the public- that this report will highlight the inadequacy of the National Standards and inform future asylum-seeker accommodation policy in Ireland, particularly the White Paper on Direct Provision due to be published in December 2020.”
The research was conducted under the supervision of Dr Maeve O’Rourke through the Human Law Centre at the Irish Centre of Human Rights based at NUI Galway. Dr’ O Rourke stated the report was part of a larger project started by last year’s students to highlight awareness about Direct Provision, and to make it a key issue for the General Election held earlier this year. She hoped that “this year’s students will keep a focus that last year’s students identified in Direct Provision…Public pressure is badly needed to make sure that change comes about.”
She also highlighted how the purpose of Human Rights Law clinic was to introduce students to movement lawyering, a practice in which students “work directly and completely with human rights and grassroots organisations on social justice and community issues.”
The report also coincides with the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Emily Logan, Adjunct Professor at the Irish Centre for Human Rights as well as Chief Commissioner on the Rights of the Child penned the foreword to the project, stating that it was “heartening to see young people taking such a genuine interest beyond their immediate scholarship to seek to influence and vindicate the rights of children in this state.”