Speaking to the Irish Times in advance of the UN Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul (21 May 2016), President Michael D. Higgins expressed concern at the absence of any discussion on reform of the ‘Direct Provision’ (DP) system in the formation of Government talks, for the 5000 asylum-seekers in Ireland.
The President took the opportunity to highlight a report published last year by a group chaired by retired High Court judge, Dr Bryan McMahon, which made 173 recommendations for a radical overhaul of the system.
Last month, Dr McMahon described the Irish Government’s treatment of asylum-seekers as ‘narrow’ and ‘mean’, stating that the majority of the recommendations in the report had been ignored. Among the recommendations made to Government were:
- Asylum-seekers on the Irish system for more than five years be granted asylum;
- A single application procedure be introduced, instead of multiple applications – a process that could take over a decade to finalise;
- Reducing the time asylum-seekers wait for a final decision;
- Improving living conditions for asylum-seekers and their families while waiting for a decision; and
- Those in the system for more than nine months should be allowed to work.
Dr McMahon said that the call for a once-off amnesty for those in the Irish system for more than five years might be seen as a “gesture of generosity … in the spirit of the 1916 celebrations.”
President Higgins noted that there is no commitment in the programme for government agreed by Fine Gael and the Independents to implement the McMahon report. He described the report’s recommendations as “reasonable and practical” and, if implemented, would represent “considerable progress”.
It is acknowledged that long periods in Direct Provision, a form of detention without walls or barbed wire, have a negative impact on the wellbeing of asylum-seekers and their families.