Minister for Housing, Roderic O'Gorman

Ending Direct Provision is an insane policy

It is difficult to put into words how foolish the Irish Government’s publicly adopted policy in relation to ending direct provision is, exactly. Many people, recognising that direct provision is not exactly an enjoyable or comfortable life, will be sympathetic to arguments that it should be brought to an end. The Green Party campaigned at the last election on ending direct provision. Its abolition has been a celebrated cause on the left for some time.

But of course, Governments can always – and do with extraordinary regularity – make problems worse.

The Irish Government proposes to end direct provision by the end of 2024. That is just over three years away.

By the end of 2024, the Government plans that direct provision will be replaced by a system of “own door accommodation”. That is to say, every asylum seeker, or family of asylum seekers, will be guaranteed their own front door, either to a room, or a house. That will only last for four months. After four months, asylum seekers will be moved to “accommodation in the community”, which again will be “own room or own door accommodation, for which they will pay a means-tested rent”.

In adopting this policy, the Irish Government has essentially committed itself to providing taxpayer funded housing to everybody who seeks asylum here. Not, mind you, everybody who is granted asylum. Everybody who seeks it.

In other words, the Government’s policy is that if you arrive at Dublin airport and say that you are seeking asylum, the Government will commit to placing you in your own home at the expense of the Irish taxpayers within four months.

It is worth saying, at this juncture, that the Irish Government has no such policy – none – for Irish citizens who cannot find a home. There is no guarantee that they will provide a home to such people, and certainly no timeline for it. However, if you arrive here from outside the country, the Government will make that promise, without any requirement for proof of your bona fides.

Readers can judge for themselves how warped that set of priorities is. It requires no further comment.

What does require comment, however, is the likely impact of the policy.

Here is a simple question, for example: Has the Government conducted any analysis or projection on the likely impact of the policy on the number of people seeking asylum in Ireland? Put yourself in the shoes of an asylum seeker, for a moment: You arrive in Europe, and have a choice of countries in which to seek asylum. The Greeks are likely to put you in a refugee camp. The Italians the same. The UK may not let you in. Ireland will promise you a house within four months.

Which country, dear reader, would you seek?

And so, if the policy results in even a minor increase in the numbers of people seeking asylum, it very quickly balloons into an unfunded, and unkeepable, promise. In fact, it is highly likely that this promise can’t be kept even with the number of asylum seekers staying constant.

The policy is not being accompanied, by the way, by any moves to speed up the processing of asylum applications. Or any move to increase the speed of deportations. Or any policy to tighten security at our ports or airports against illegal entrants.

Despite the obvious problems with this policy, it is not opposed, at all, by the opposition parties. It has received precious little – in fact, scratch that, it has received no – scrutiny from the media. All because, in Ireland, opposition parties and the media live in mortal fear of being accused of “playing the race card”. Merely expressing scepticism of any policy in relation to immigration runs the very real risk of being called a racist.

But the real racism is actually in the policy itself. After all, it amounts to lying to immigrants. It is yet another promise that is certain to be broken. It undermines trust in our immigration policy, amongst both immigrants, and those with a natural right to live in Ireland.

As ever, the policy will involve shovelling vast piles of taxpayer money at those in our society who profit from immigration – the legion of NGOs, those with houses to rent, those lawyers who have made a career out of slowing down the asylum process – while doing very little of substance for immigrants themselves.

It is an absolutely insane policy. And of course, if you talk to a Government backbencher, or indeed, any normal person, most of them will openly agree that it is an insane policy. They will also tell you that they are too scared to speak out on it, for fear of the R-word.

Which is why, dear reader, we should really stop electing cowards.

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