Our treatment of the thousands of people in direct provision throughout this country is nothing short of a scandal. A country coming to terms with the awful abuse inflicted on people in the mother and baby homes, the Magdalen laundries and other State and religious institutions is now sowing the seeds for future shame. The treatment of people fleeing some of the worst abuses around the world is shameful. The fact that adults and children have to live on €19.10 and €9.60 per week, respectively, means they are treated as second class citizens and not given the respect they deserve. Direct provision is operated as a profit-making enterprise by private companies and individuals. Barlow Properties Limited in Cork has received €40 million from the State for running five direct provision centres. East Coast Catering has received €90 million since 2000. Bridgestock, based in Roscommon, has received at least €68 million for its role in running direct provision centres. Is this the best use of our resources? People in direct provision do not have cooking facilities, which leads to children not learning how to cook as they have never seen their parents do so. In Northern Ireland, asylum seekers have cooking facilities. Asylum seekers are not permitted to work and they are not entitled to social welfare benefits. They are also excluded from social housing and free third level education. Former Supreme Court Judge Catherine McGuinness has predicted that a future Government will end up publicly apologising for damage done by the direct provision system.
The Health Service Executive has documented the negative health effects on asylum seekers of not being able to work.It reported this lack of entitlement to work when this restriction extends over a long period may further compound mental health issues, with boredom, depression, a sense of isolation and loss of self-esteem commonly reported symptoms. A shocking statistic is that depression and mental health problems in the direct provision system are up to five times higher than in the wider community. A study carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons found the length of the asylum process was associated with an increase in psychiatric disorders. The State has an obligation to treat people in direct provision with dignity and respect. This can only be achieved when there is an admission by the Government that the conditions in the centres are below standard and the facilities are improved. Children who live in direct provision must be allowed to continue their education by receiving free third level education. I ask the Acting Leader when does the Government intend to address the issue of direct provision, which was initially intended as a stopgap measure before people's asylum application cases were heard.