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New Standards are an opportunity to significantly enhance accommodation system

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New Standards are an opportunity to significantly enhance accommodation system

16 August 2018

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has welcomed the publication of new standards for direct provision centres as an opportunity to significantly enhance the accommodation system for asylum-seekers in Ireland.

The standards, which go out to public consultation on Thursday 16 August, build upon the 2015 McMahon report, translating its recommendations into binding standards and driving improvements across all accommodation centres.

"As the government continues to implement the recommendations of the 2015 McMahon report, the creation of a thorough and robust system of formalised standards will raise standards and ensure consistency in the provision of services to people living in direct provision centres" said Enda O'Neill, Head of Office with UNHCR Ireland. "These national standards will be used for the purpose of inspecting all centres and set objective benchmarks for all those working in the area. A companion document will also set out in plain English what the standards mean in practice for residents of accommodation centres so that they are aware of their rights and can make suggestions or complaints without fear of adverse consequences.

The standards, which have been developed by a multi-disciplinary team of civil servants working with a number of NGOs and UNHCR, are intended to describe how accommodation centres should ensure dignified living conditions and provide high-quality services which meet the needs of residents. This 'person centred' approach, which emphasizes the rights and diversity of each resident, will inform the tendering process for all future accommodation centres and be used to create contractual obligations for each service provider.

UNHCR called on the government to now move forward with the creation of an independent inspectorate, as recommended by the 2015 McMahon report. Such an inspectorate would be a significant step forward in the protection of the rights of people living in direct provision centres, it said, instilling confidence in the standard and quality of services provided. UNHCR said it hoped that its creation will give confidence to more organisations, including not-for profits, to consider engaging in the tendering process.

"Ireland is unusual among EU Member States in that NGOs and civil society organisations do not operate accommodation centres for asylum-seekers" said O'Neill. "As the 2015 McMahon report noted, the potential benefit of the not-for-profit model is that profits are reinvested in the facility rather than paid out to shareholders.

The draft standards have now been published to allow further feedback from all those interested in the development of standards for reception centres. They can be downloaded here.