The Irish Refugee Council continues to promote best practices for the protection of the rights of children and young people, including separated children, at all stages of the asylum process. Through research and our advocacy and policy, we work to address the specific challenges facing children living in Direct Provision (and emergency) accomodation, close the protection gaps for separated children under the ‘Aging Out’ policy and present durable solutions for children separated at both the national and regional level.
With the length of time in the asylum process in Ireland ranging from less than a year to more than seven years, children spend a significant proportion of their childhood in Direct Provision accommodation. Children living in these centres are not necessarily applying for asylum themselves, but are the children of people seeking asylum and may have been born and lived their whole lives in Ireland. Regardless of their or their families’ status, these children did not choose to come to Ireland and they have no control over their circumstances.
All children need to be raised in an atmosphere where care providers offer emotional protection and support. In addition to a loving family life, children need stimulation, encouragement, instruction, rules and limitations. Moreover, care providers must be able to lead by example through their behaviour, exhibition of values and religious and cultural practices. Direct Provision is an unnatural family environment that is not conducive to positive development in children. Parents in Direct Provision are unable to care for or govern the rules and customs of their family and the upbringing of their children due to the restrictions of living in centres.
As of August 2019, there were 1,647 children in the Direct Provision system.
Read our report on 'State Sanctioned Child Poverty and Exclusion, The case of children in state accomodation for asylum seekers'
Separated children are defined as children under 18 years of age who are outside their country of origin and separated from both parents, or their previous legal/customary primary caregiver. The Irish Refugee Council acts as the Irish national focal point for the Separated Children in Europe (SCEP) Network. We also work towards closing a protection gap outlining core standards for guardians of separated children in Europe.
For a separated child, aging out of care, or reaching the age of 18 years, is a frightening time. Separated children arrive in Ireland between the ages of 0 and 17.5 years, although the majority arrive between the ages of 16-17 years. During the time that they spend as a minor, they are in the care of the Health Service Executive (HSE). They have a social worker, a care plan and the beginnings of an aftercare plan. They are often in foster placements or residential homes with 24 hour care staff support.
As they reach the age of 18, separated children begin the transition to Direct Provision accommodation. They are often dispersed to a new County losing contact with their families, social workers, aftercare workers, schools, support networks and their friends. They are often forced to leave school early or change schools as well as GPs and counsellors. These young people find themselves in shared accommodation with no support services living on very little. These young people are at particular risk of being re-traumatised, exploited or even trafficked.
Through our advocacy and policy work, the Irish Refugee Council is working towards changing the 'Aging Out' policy seeking an alternative solution that protects and upholds the safety, dignity and well-being of all young people seeking international protection in Ireland.
Core Standards for guardians of separated children in Europe
A child-friendly guide
A guide to the Committee on the Rights of the Child's General Comment Number 6 on the treatment of unaccompanied and separated children outside their country of origin
The case of children in State accommodation for asylum seekers
Paper on incorporating the best interests of the child into the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010