• Clodagh Meaney

New report gives insight into life as a child living in Direct Provision

The findings have been labeled as 'Stark' by Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon.

A new report published by Ombudsman for Children's office, gives an insight into life as a child that lives in Direct Provision.

Discrimination, racism, privacy, stigma and isolation were among some of the issues covered in the findings.

The research conducted looked at children's life and experiences at school outside and of their accommodation situation.

However it was found that for the most part, the life and experience of the young people interviewed was shaped by living in Direct Provision accommodation.

The report compiled was based on interviews focusing on children's views of their rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

73 children from nine different Direct Provision centres took part in the research.

Dr Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children said: "Access to services such as education, housing and transport, as well as establishing friendships, taking part in community activities and being accepted in our wider society are things that many of us take for granted."

"Children living in Direct Provision accommodation must learn how the systems in Ireland work and navigate these, often while learning a new language, and sometimes while dealing with trauma."

"In this consultation we wanted to find out what their experience of trying to find their way in Irish society was like, the challenges they face and the possible solutions that may help them."

Calling the findings, "quite start," lack of space and privacy were cited among problems for children within accommodation centres as participants reported that there were cameras everywhere, and often their rooms were entered and examined by staff without any prior notice.

Niall Muldoon | Ombudsman for Children

"Everyone has right to privacy... but there is no privacy in this place, at first we were five in one room, now it’s better. I don’t like if someone browse my phone," one child told researchers.

"There’s cameras everywhere, and it’s just, I don’t know, you feel watched... It’s like everyone is watching you," said another, with a third adding: "We don’t have privacy… like everything, our whole life is exposed. It just makes you wonder why they are doing this to us. Like… we are not animals."

The report highlighted how many of the children felt isolated due to the geographical location of the centres they were staying in. The issues of isolation were exacerbated by poor transportation, as children are confined to attending school and returning as soon as they're finished, leaving no opportunities to take part in after school activities.

Children also reported a sense of fear and stigma about where they lived and why they lived there, which stopped them from asking for lifts from others.

"The bus can only take us to school and bring us back, so we can’t stay late at school or do anything in town after school. We always get home at twenty past four, every day," said one child.

All of these issues combined have stopped children from feeling that they live like their Irish peers, explained Dr. Muldoon.

Some schools took steps to respect the religion and culture of young people which he said is "very much appreciated."

Some of the steps taken include schools permitting the wearing of the hijab, providing prayer rooms, providing Halal food and holding international and multi-cultural days.

Young Muslim women however, felt it was hard to express their religious and cultural beliefs due to stigma and discrimination.

"It’s kind of worse for the Muslim girls, because it’s obvious... you know the ladies that put the hijab and everything on, it’s like they’re kind of being judged from other people," explained one young participant.

"And that also makes it in the house thing…..you’re going for a house viewing and then you see a lady with the hijab on her, and they’re like... “she’s a killer”.

In the wider community, some children said that they play for local sports teams and were part of local youth groups with support from their community organisations.

Many children reported feeling discriminated against at school, with racist slurs, taunts and bullying related to race, religion and nationality.

Others reported being subject to racism at the hands of their teachers.

"Teachers were reported as knowing little about what it meant to be an asylum seeker or what living in Direct Provision accommodation is like and the restrictions it placed on the children," Dr Muldoon explained.

Many of the children spoke about their status as asylum seekers as a further cause of exclusion and discomfort in school, often leading to being singled out by their classmates.

"So, as black kids, they, you know those videos they sometimes put in the ads, where, like, let’s say Africa, sponsor kids in Africa, they don’t have water. But no, like, some parts in Africa there are different circumstances," said one child.

"Like, a lot of white people might think that Africa is like a jungle with lions and stuff, but it’s not. Like, it’s like an actual place where people live in, and there could be rich people there."

"But when they look upon us, they think, like, 'You’re poor',"

"That we’re in asylum doesn’t mean that in our past lives we were not, like, rich, or something like that, you know? But the way they look upon us, like, they think, like, we’re nothing… So, yeah, but in cases of, like, white people, they judge too much, they judge too quick before they know what, like, is going on," they explained.

Opening up further about their experiences living in Direct Provision, one young person said: "We’re not poor, we’re all equal."

"In the country we came from, we had a house, we had a car, we had food, we had money we had everything. The country just wasn’t safe, we just came to Ireland for a better future."

"Don’t judge people just because of their background, do not judge them because they are black, do not judge them just because they’re an asylum seeker," they asked.

"Like you don’t know what their story is, you can’t just be judging people without having them say what they have been through."

"Hear their story and then help them," they encouraged.

“Where I’m living now… it’s kind of hard,” said another young voice.

"Even for my family because we don’t know if we are staying here or going back to our country.”

“If we go there, there’s gonna be a lot of more problems. I hope Ireland will love us.”

Some of the children's recommended changes include: youth councils, self-catering, better food, no cameras, more computers and equipment.

They also looked at how change could help them leave Direct Provision by suggesting moving-out loans without interest, more social housing, and making it mandatory for landlords to accept Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).

© 2020 by EMPWR

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