News Irish News

Monday 23 April 2018

Ombudsman warns of child abuse risk in asylum-seeker hostels

Emily O'Reilly: students can report issues to her office
Emily O'Reilly: students can report issues to her office

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

THERE is a "real risk" of child abuse in asylum-seeker hostels where single-parent families are required to share with strangers, Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly has warned.

She said there was also a danger of abuse in these facilities because families with teenage children of the opposite sex were required to share one room.

Ms O Reilly was commenting on the system of 'direct provision', which confines asylum seekers to hostel-type facilities, with all meals provided.

"At present, there are about 4,800 people in 35 centres; of these, about 1,820 (or 38pc) are children under the age of 18 years."

She said there were about 640 lone-parent families in these hostels.

"In addition to meals and accommodation, residents receive a weekly payment of €19.10 per adult and €9.60 for a child. These rates have not been increased since 2000," she wrote in the current edition of the 'Jesuit Quarterly Studies'.

She pointed out: "Had they been increased in line with the consumer price index, the current rates would be about €26.60 and €13.40 respectively."

Ms O' Reilly, who will become European Ombudsman in the autumn, revealed that her office had to deal with one case involving an asylum-seeking family where the HSE decision ended up keeping them apart.

The HSE refused to pay supplementary welfare allowance to an African woman who had won her right to the payment.

"The complaint related to an African woman with two children who came to Ireland in 2007. She was placed in direct provision accommodation in Co Mayo. She left it after 15 months because of serious concerns about the mental health of one of her children who had attempted suicide.

"The woman moved to Dublin, where she lived with a friend in rented accommodation. Her child made a second suicide attempt and was hospitalised.

"The woman had no income so she applied for supplementary welfare allowance and was unsuccessful. The woman appealed, initially within the HSE system, where her appeal was rejected.

"She had a final right of appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office where, following a delay of more than eight months, her appeal was successful.

"The complaint made to my office was that, while the woman had succeeded with her appeal, the HSE had not implemented the appeal decision. As a result of this failure, the woman and her children were left in a very vulnerable position." The family remains separated.

Ms O Reilly said that we need "urgently, to reform our arrangements so as to ensure that asylum applications are dealt with speedily, efficiently (in a single process), fairly and humanely".

She said: "We have known for a decade and more that our treatment of asylum seekers is unacceptable and we have failed, mostly, to do anything about it. With some honourable exceptions, that failure is a collective failure of a republic which needs to re-engage with what ought to be its core values."

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News