Saturday 19 October 2019

Varadkar defends Direct Provision as he insists alternative is 'much worse'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Direct Provision system is "far from ideal" but warned "the alternative is much worse".

He told the Dáil: "It's camps and containers and I hope that never happens."

It came as controversy over a proposed Direct Provision centre in Oughterard, Co Galway sparked a debate on nature of the system and claims communities aren't consulted properly about their location.

Mr Varadkar made his remarks in response to Fianna Fáil TD Fiona O'Loughlin who said withdrawal of the tender for the proposed centre in Oughterard is "incredibly worrying".

She expressed concern at the message this and controversy over other planned centres is sending out from Ireland and said a key issue is poor consultation with communities.

Mr Varadkar said that while Direct Provision is "far from ideal", Ireland, like other countries, will never be in a position to provide a house or apartment to every asylum seeker. He added: "The sad reality is the alternative to Direct Provision is what happens in France and Germany and Greece and Italy which is camps and containers".

Mr Varadkar said part of the solution is "proper consultation with communities" and he insisted it has worked "in places all over the country".

He also said people have misconceptions about direct provision. The Taoiseach said: "It's not compulsory, you can leave any time... Many asylum seekers work, provide their own accommodation. Many stay with friends and relatives. It is accommodation, it's board, it's food and it's spending money."

Mr Varadkar said: "I think we need to consult with communities but we also need people to understand better what Direct Provision really is."

Earlier Fianna Fáil justice spokesman TD Jim O'Callaghan claimed there wasn't enough consultation with the community in Oughterard.

He said: "If you're going to bring people along with you in a process like this you have to apprise them of what's going to happen."

He also said he is "disappointed" the tender was withdrawn. Mr O'Callaghan said: "I would be concerned if a message is going out that these centres can be stopped if there's protest."

There are just over 6,000 people in Direct Provision centres and a further 1,379 in emergency accommodation like hotels.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said there are "particular expenditure pressures" in relation to accommodation for asylum seekers as he updated the Dáil on the prospects of need for additional funding in certain departments.

Irish Independent

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