Eyrepowell in Newbridge
The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, has started to accept complaints from children living in Direct Provision.
He is now encouraging children or adults on their behalf to come forward with their issues adding that complaints will not affect their refugee status.
Currently there are 79 asylum seekers including six children living at the Eyrepowell Direct Provision Centre in Newbridge.
There were concerns in the past with the lack of facilities for children at the former hotel including no outside play area and cramped in-house living conditions. There were also concerns raised at the time back in 2012 about poor hygiene conditions at the centre and lack of adequate toddler food.
According to the Ombudsman he has been accepting complaints from children living in Direct Provision, or from adults who complain on their behalf since April 3 last.
“This means for the first time, young people living in Direct Provision will have the same rights as every other child in Ireland. They will have a safe, secure and independent place, where they can come to make a complaint,” he said.
“It is still early days, but it is clear already that many find making a complaint very daunting. Understandably people in Direct Provision are fearful that a complaint of any kind, to any organisation, may affect their refugee status. That is not the case.
“As Ombudsman for Children, I cannot investigate decisions on asylum, citizenship, family reunification, residency or visas. However, it is understandable, that people, many of whom have been through traumatic experiences, are wary of drawing any attention to themselves.
For the past number of months the Ombudsman has worked with the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP), and with the staff of Direct Provision centres and Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres (EROC) to accept complaints about children in Direct Provision. He is also now meeting with children and their families to inform them about their rights and how to make a complaint.
“It is clear that greater understanding, and improved communication is needed across the public service, and in all Government Departments to make it easier for people living in both Direct Provision centres and EROCs, to make a complaint. At the OCO we are travelling around the country and working to build trust so that children and families know they can come to us.
“We expect to receive complaints about life in Direct Provision centres, but we also anticipate complaints about all aspects of a child’s life; access to school, education supports, health and welfare.
“Providing access to the complaints process for children living in Direct Provision is long overdue. We now need to ensure that people have confidence to come forward and to highlight issues that they feel are negatively impacting on children.”