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Direct provision is “simply unworthy of us”: Bishop

By Sarah Mac Donald - 07 October, 2014

Children are “uniquely vulnerable to the lifelong consequences of growing up in such an institutionalised environment”.

Direct-Provision-IrelandDirect provision is not a natural family environment and its confined space can lead to depression and mental health problems the Irish Bishops Conference has warned.

The Bishops have said they are particularly concerned about children being brought up in direct provision. Children constitute one third of all residents in these centres.

They warned that children are “uniquely vulnerable to the lifelong consequences of growing up in such an institutionalised environment”.

Bishop John McAreavey, a member of the Bishops’ Council for Justice and Peace, said there is a “growing sense across the country that something is seriously wrong” with direct provision.

He warned that Ireland is “discrediting itself as a society” in its treatment of asylum seekers who come here in search of a better life.

“I think in the last generation, we look back at how we have failed children, and I say that as a Church person,” he told RTÉ’s This Week programme on Sunday.

He continued, “Here we have a new generation of children, a new generation for whom growing up in Ireland is a very painful and difficult thing.”

Asked why there wasn’t a greater outcry in wider society over direct provision, the Bishop responded, “I suppose the truth is that most of us make judgements on what we see and what we experience ourselves every day and the truth is that many of these families that are in the direct provision centres are off the beaten track.”

He added that many of the centres were in rural areas “where they are out of sight and out of mind”.

“Over these last number of months an increasing number of people, some of them church people but many of them advocates of one kind or another, have been trying to give a voice to the voiceless so that whenever it comes to voting and expressing opinion, whether it is in local councils or in the Dáil or in other for a, people will realise that there is something happening here that is simply unworthy of us,” the Bishop of Dromore said.

Speaking to RTE Radio, he said that he had met a woman who had arrived in Ireland eight years ago, and gave birth to a son in direct provision.

“For this child, his whole experience of the world is coloured by the provision made in Ireland for people seeking asylum. This is the only childhood that that boy will have.”

“The price paid by adults because of the suffering in their childhood is something that lies very heavily on the conscience of all of us.”

“This young boy that I am talking about is actually an Irish citizen – he was born in this country and so I think we are talking about a new generation of children for whom growing up in Ireland is a very painful and difficult thing.”

He noted that in many centres there is lack of privacy and there is a lack of access to ‘basic elements’ of family life.

As the bishops noted in their autumn statement, living in direct provision centres for up to two years is challenging, but many residents have been living in these centres for over five years.

“Some families, parents and children are expected to live in one room together. Single residents may have to share a room with several other adults and bathrooms are often shared,” the bishops highlight.

A working group under the chairmanship of retired judge Brian McMahon is examining the way Ireland treats those seeking refugee status here and the direct provisions system of accommodating them.

Recently, Co Laois parish priest, Mgr John Burns, spoke out in support of a protest at the Montague direct provision centre in Portlaoise.

The Council for Immigrants of the Irish Bishops Conference has encouraged every diocese to actively support their local parishes in the pastoral and spiritual care of this living in direct provision centres in their local communities.

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