Speech on Order of Business: Conditions for Asylum-Seekers, Domestic Violence and Covid-19

17 November 2020

Ivana Bacik

To follow previous speakers on the issue of living with Covid, we have statements on that tomorrow, which I welcome. The figures of recent days have been disheartening, to say the least. All of us are hoping we will see a turnaround in the next two weeks while we are still at level 5. This indicates even more clearly the need for a clear exit strategy and a clear message from the Government, in particular on the very difficult issue of people coming home for Christmas and how we manage this. There is very welcome news of a vaccine but we need to ensure that over the coming months we have a clear strategy in place.

I join with others who called for a debate on domestic violence. I understand we are due to have that debate next week and I very much welcome it in light of the very alarming figures from Safe Ireland last week, which showed that an average of almost 2,000 women and 411 children were in receipt of support from domestic violence services in each month since March. We already know from various reports the extent to which the risk of domestic violence has been heightened and exacerbated during the pandemic. I commend the Garda and NGOs that have been working on this during the months that Covid restrictions have been in place to ensure supports remain in place for women and children in particular who are enduring this level of violence. It is a very serious matter. As we approach the international day for the elimination of violence against women and girls next week, it is timely that we would have this debate in the House. I thank the Deputy Leader and Leader for organising it.

I call on the Deputy Leader to arrange a debate on conditions for asylum seekers pending the implementation of the Day report recommendations and pending the abolition of direct provision. We know this is promised in the programme for Government and steps are being taken. In the interim, we need to ensure the conditions in which those currently living in direct provision and seeking asylum in Ireland live are not simply let slide while we await the overall reform. I note that this week the Irish Refugee Council called for the urgent implementation of vulnerability assessments for asylum seekers and to prioritise children coming into Ireland. It is a real concern that this is not happening. Ireland is legally obliged to conduct a vulnerability assessment within 30 days of arrival under the reception conditions directive. It must be a concern if we see this is not happening, or if we see that perhaps we have let our attention become less focused on the conditions for families and children in particular in direct provision. I know organisation such as Nasc as well as the Irish Refugee Council have raised this issue. I would welcome a debate on this over the coming weeks.