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Direct Provision, Rights and Everyday Life for Asylum Seekers in Ireland during COVID-19

Dr Fiona Murphy discusses her paper on the impact of COVID-19 on applicants in the Irish asylum system.

Dr Murphy, blogpost image, Direct provision

This article considered the impact of COVID-19 on international protection applicants in the Irish asylum system. It presents a critical reflection on the failings of ‘direct provision’ and how the experience of COVID-19 has further heightened the issues at stake for asylum seekers and refugees living in Ireland. In Ireland, international protection applicants are detained in a system of institutionalized living called direct provision where they must remain until they receive status. Direct provision centres offer substandard accommodation and are often overcrowded. During the pandemic, many asylum seekers could not effectively socially isolate, so many centres experienced COVID-19 outbreaks. My work examines these experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and joins a community of scholars calling for the urgent end to the system of direct provision.

While direct provision is a very different asylum system to that in Northern Ireland, the pyscho-social impact and the significance of a system such as DP existing at all is important to consider in a Northern Ireland context given the movement between the two states (occasionally of asylum seekers out of DP into NI). Further, given the very concerning developments in the UK around asylum systems and policy which may result in a system akin to direct provision, there is some urgency to understanding and presenting the broad failings of direct provision beyond Ireland. All evidence highlights how deleterious direct provision has been to international protection applicants, resulting in significant pyscho-social harm and serving as a damaging post-migration stressor in multiple and overlapping ways. 

There are thus many lessons to be learnt from the Republic of Ireland context. My work points to a systematic failure on the part of the Irish state to provide a secure environment for international protection applicants during the COVID-19 pandemic and pays particular attention to issues of overcrowding, insecurity and risk during the pandemic. Widespread media attention has also centred on how challenging life has been in direct provision during the pandemic. This has subsequently mapped onto a well-organised solidarity movement that has been working for many years to have direct provision ended. As such, calls to end direct provision from many different sectors of the Irish public have hardened, culminating in the issuing of a very promising government white paper (February 2021) committing to the end of direct provision by 2024. With changes ahead for UK asylum policy, we do not want to be in a situation in Northern Ireland which sees an acceleration of the detention and warehousing of international protection applicants, all of the evidence from ROI should challenge us to protest this with all of our spirit and energy.

For more about the research, read this journal article (which is open access):

Murphy, F. (2021). Direct Provision, Rights and Everyday Life for Asylum Seekers in Ireland during COVID-19. Social Sciences, 10(4), 140. MDPI AG. Retrieved from

Dr Fiona Murphy
School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics

Recommended reference for this page:

Murphy, F. 2021. Direct Provision, Rights and Everyday Life for Asylum Seekers in Ireland during COVID-19. Blog post on Queens on Ethnic Minorities in Northern Ireland.