JRS Ireland accompanies individuals, families and children in their journey through the Irish asylum system. For the majority the journey to get a final determination of their claim for protection from the Irish State will take years. Since 2002 JRS Ireland has been accompanying and serving asylum seekers residing in state provided accommodation, known as Direct Provision centres. Currently, JRS Ireland staff provides outreach and support to residents in 10 Direct Provision centres located in Dublin, Kildare, Portlaoise, Clare and Limerick.
A key aspect of accompaniment is seeking to ensure the dignity of each resident is respected. In particular, JRS gives priority to those whose needs are greatest. Outreach ensures that asylum seekers in Direct Provision centres have somebody to speak to and that their story and needs can be heard.
Under the Direct Provision system, people applying for asylum are accommodated in specified accommodation centres, which provide food and essentials such as heating, lighting and washing facilities. The system is under the administration of the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of the Department of Justice and Equality.
New applicants are initially accommodated in a Reception Centre which is in Dublin, and are then allocated a place in one of the thirty-four accommodation centres located throughout the country. There are centres in sixteen of the country's twenty-six counties, with several centres in the most populous locations – Dublin, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, and Waterford. Direct provision accommodation includes purpose-built centres; buildings that were formerly used as hotels, guesthouses, hostels, convents, or nursing homes; a mobile home site, and a former holiday camp. Only two accommodation centres are self-catering.
In most cases, the parent or parents of young children will be allocated just one room in the accommodation centre for their entire family; single people usually have to share their living space with one or more residents of the same gender. In the majority of centres, meals are provided at set times in a common dining room and residents are not allowed to cook their own food. A weekly cash allowance of €21.60 per person is payable to asylum seekers in direct provision centres.
Life in Direct Provision, a system which may have merit as a form of short-term secure accommodation, becomes inhumane and cruel if it has to be endured on a long-term basis.