Small increases to the weekly payments for asylum seekers living in direct provision are no substitute for fundamental reforms to make the asylum process more efficient and humane, the Social Democrats’ Limerick representative has said.
Sarah Jane Hennelly, who has worked professionally with migrants and refugees in Limerick city, stated:
“This week’s announced increases in payments for people living in direct provision means the rate for children will rise from €15.60 to €21.60 per week and for adults from €19.10 to €21.60 per week from August.
“The new Taoiseach Mr Varadkar concedes that this is a small gesture to migrants and that the Government will be more compassionate to their needs and sensitive to their aspirations in the future. But small gestures are not what’s needed. We need deep reforms, improvements in the asylum process, and the speeding up of decisions for people seeking protection as refugees.”
Ms Hennelly, who is the party’s chairperson, added:
“Never should I or anyone else be dismissive of increased support to vulnerable members of our society, however minuscule. The problem is, these people are, for all intents and purposes, not seen as members of our society. They live dependent on the state, and this is not of their own making.
“The reason we see approximately 4,000 people living in direct provision centres is primarily due to the incredibly slow administration, management and approval of the asylum process. I know from working with people in direct provision they don’t want an extra €2.50 per week, they want refugee status. They want to know where they stand with the state, they do not want to be dependent on it.
“With this in mind, investment in the asylum process rather than incremental inadequate increases like this would be much more appropriate, humane and better in the long-term. Throwing some money at this issue will not suffice, it needs real reform and genuine political commitment.
“In addition, we need to make the right to work happen for asylum seekers – we are only one of two EU countries with this restriction. It is well-known and proven mental health research shows the link between well-being and employment. If people are excluded from employment, they are likely to remain dependent – it is very difficult for people who gain refugee status to transition to independent living from direct provision, especially as they cannot work.
“In terms of longer-term integration for people who are granted protections here, ability to work is a crucial element of engaging and understanding your community. If we don’t plan for integration, then we will see issues with social exclusion down the line, and aside from the huge social issues this could create, it also costs the state more in the long-term in a multiplicity of other ways.”