Statement from the Department of Justice and Equality regarding Oughterard 

1 October, 2019 

It is disappointing that a bidder has chosen to withdraw from the tender process for the western region. This is of course their prerogative. However this is a development which will ultimately exacerbate a very serious situation in terms of a shortage of accommodation for those who come to Ireland seeking accommodation and requesting State services. 

Minister Flanagan said:

“In recent weeks grossly misleading comments have been made about the nature of direct provision services in this State. The nature of the services - which have improved steadily over many years and are in line with EU law - have been totally mischaracterized. People have demanded we close down our accommodation centres. They have been less forthcoming with proposals as to where housing would be sourced for the 6,014 people currently availing of services in Centres, the 1,379 people being provided with shelter and services in emergency accommodation and the dozens of people who will present today, tomorrow and the next day seeking the protection of the State. Many EU Member States provide services to asylum seekers through the Centre model and some 60,000 people have been supported by direct provision services over a 20 year period.”

The Minister of State with responsibility for Equality, Immigration & Integration, David Stanton said:

“I have visited direct provision centres all over Ireland and I have found the experience tends to be similar.  Through engagement and identifying community needs, initial concerns about what the opening of a Centre means, resolve.  This was acknowledged by the Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall recently, when addressing an Oireachtas Committee and has been evident over many years in centres such as Wicklow, Mosney, Millstreet and Lisdoonvarna, to name but a few.

“The positive stories about the critical supports the State provides through direct provision and the benefits a Centre brings to a community are largely ignored and that is a great pity. 

“The State has a responsibility and a legal obligation to offer accommodation and other services to those who seek protection. The arrangements prior to the introduction of the Direct Provision System left applicants in very vulnerable situations. Centres were introduced to mitigate this and to provide supports and services. No person is obliged to avail of these services which are entirely optional.”

A Department spokesperson added: 

“We recognise the need to engage with communities in advance of new centres opening and we are working to improve community engagement structures and how all the State parties respond when a centre is proposed.  It is the Department’s experience in opening and operating centres for the last twenty years that communities are generally understanding of the need to open centres.  They have been generally very supportive and welcoming to people seeking asylum. Friends of the Centre groups foster important links between residents, the local community and voluntary groups and speak of how their communities gain from the new arrivals. 

“In this regard it was disconcerting to see a new trend emerging and to hear the owner say that that he had made his decision in the interests of the safety of all involved including his workers.  

“The Department will continue to evaluate the other bids received and to progress the remaining tenders in the Dublin and border regions. It is imperative that we do so to avoid a situation where accommodation cannot be offered to people who arrive seeking protection. Ireland is perilously close to this scenario, given that the 38 existing centres are full,  there are almost 1,400 people currently being accommodated in emergency accommodation in hotels and guest houses, and that dozens of people are arriving every week.  Voluntary presentations seeking protection are up more than 50% on last year.  

“The Department acknowledges that the system of Direct Provision is not perfect but we are working to improve it.  Without it we would not be able to support the thousands of people who arrive here with nothing every year to seek our protection. That is an obligation that the Department and the State takes very seriously.”