Retired Supreme Court Judge Catherine McGuinness has warned that a future Irish Government would one day have to issue a state apology and compensate former direct provision residents, particularly child asylum- seekers (Irish Refugee Council 2013, 22). Minister Riordain noted that direct provision needed “radical reform,” and that it is “unacceptable that a child could spend half ... [his or her] life in a direct provision center— in poverty, marginalized, stigmatized” (Interview in November 2014, 76). Although once touted as a humane alternative to prison detention, direct provision has contributed to the poor physical and mental health of thousands of children since 2000.
The Irish Government’s argument that the “low” cost of direct provision makes it the only feasible option is shortsighted. If children are kept segregated from the mainstream Irish population for several years while receiving little to no schooling, it will be difficult for them to acquire necessary English language skills, excel in school (if they return at all), and socially and culturally integrate into Irish society if they are granted refugee or other protected status. Years of systemic poverty, psychological distress, deskilling, and forced idleness caused by direct provision will continue to impact these children into adulthood (Irish Refugee Council 2013, 20).
Taking into account the political, legal, and logistical difficulties of amending the direct provision system are important to address when making policy recommendations to the Government of Ireland. Still, it also is crucial to consider child asylum-seekers’ unique needs and backgrounds—some have experienced war, violence, separation from their families, and significant material deprivation (Irish Human Rights Commission 2010, 23). The social and emotional adjustment needed for these children to acclimate to life in Ireland is negatively impacted by living in direct provision. It is contrary to the best interests of children and is detrimental to their right to a healthy family life (Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission 2014, 17).