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Report from Ombudsman for Children’s Office Highlights Discrimination, Lack of Privacy and Racism as Biggest Issues Facing Children in Direct Provision

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office will today launch ‘Direct Division’, a report on the views and experiences of children living in Direct Provision accommodation in Ireland.  Through engaging with children aged between 12 and 17 years in nine centres around Ireland, the report shines a light on the reality of life in Direct Provision centres, as well as their experiences in school, the local community and wider Irish society.

The report highlights a number of issues and challenges faced by children living in Direct Provision accommodation, including a lack of space and privacy with children reporting that there were cameras everywhere. Discrimination and racism at school and in the community was reported, with children frequently experiencing the use of racial and sectarian slurs and bullying. Children also reported that some teachers expressed racist or discriminatory sentiments or were covertly racist. Financial constraints and geographical isolation were also cited as barriers to social inclusion.

While many children struggled to do so, some of them identified positive things that helped them to feel included and a part of their schools, communities and wider society such as inclusion in community events and sports. In schools, some children said teachers, staff and students had shown respect for different cultures and religions by providing prayer rooms, permitting hijabs and offering Halal food in the canteen.

Speaking ahead of the report’s launch, the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, 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. However, children living in Direct Provision accommodation must learn how the systems in Ireland work and navigate these, generally while learning a new language, and often while dealing with trauma.

“The findings presented here are quite stark. The children highlighted a number of challenges and difficulties including a lack of space and privacy in their accommodation centres, geographical isolation and a lack of transport options, as well as financial constraints.

“At school and in their local communities, many children also felt discriminated against, feeling that the colour of their skin was how they were judged by many Irish people.

“The children made many suggestions for changes, some very simple and small, others large and systemic, that would help improve their lives in school, the community and wider society. The policy context in which this report was written is a changing one that is, hopefully, open to the possibility and potential of change. New political commitments to address and indeed end Direct Provision are to be welcomed and I hope that these will be honoured in the quickest possible timeframe.

“Nonetheless, in the interim and inevitable transition period, the issues highlighted by the children here must be considered to ensure that for as long as the current system remains, the Direct Division they experience is addressed and remedied,” Dr Muldoon concluded.