Minister Joe O’Brien, Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development with special responsibility for Community Development and Charities, today joined with his colleague, Minister Roderic O’Gorman, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to launch a White Paper on the Government’s new international Protection Support System – a move Minister O’Brien today described as a “radical policy shift”. He said previous policy did not adequately recognise the full humanity of people and their rights until they were granted full status and it has been this flawed approach which has allowed direct provision to persist. This plan, he says, “turns that policy on its head.”
Minister O’Brien, whose professional background is in the area of migrant rights and integration, welcomed the White Paper’s emphasis on the role that the Community & Voluntary sector will play in delivering the new system. He paid tribute to the role community groups and NGOs have played in bringing Ireland to the stage where this new policy can be implemented. There is, he said, a deep understanding in Irish people’s history and heritage of what it is to come to a country seeking refuge. The Minister said he would not be where he is today had it not been for the friendships he had made in his first job with people seeking asylum and the experiences those connections have given him.
Minister O’Brien said:
“The Community & Voluntary sector and NGOs have been to the forefront of advocating for human rights based approaches to issues of inequality long before the current system of direct provision even existed. It’s therefore fitting that a human rights approach is the core of this paper.
“This new plan will be encouraging community integration from day one. The sector excels in nurturing the humanity and rights of people and providing supports to people in vulnerable situations who need a helping hand. In my own Department of Rural and Community Development I oversee the State’s main social inclusion programme SICAP which currently funds social inclusion work with asylum seekers by our 49 Local Development Companies across the country. The potential to build on this is evident in today’s plan and equally there will be significant roles for the Public Participation Networks and the volunteer centres supported by my Department and Volunteering Ireland.
“Ultimately, I hope today is a hopeful and optimistic day for those who have advocated for the end of direct provision. I know there are people living in direct provision today who are stuck in an unsatisfactory situation and it is important to note that we will continue to work to improve the situation while we create and build the new system.
“The launch of this White Paper today is a significant first step on the path to dismantling the current system of Direct Provision and replacing it with a modern, humane system that takes a people-centered approached to international protection.”