Minister Lenihan launches policies for children in asylum seeker accommodation centres

The Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Children, Mr Brian Lenihan TD, today launched two policy documents for children in asylum seeker accommodation centres.

Both documents were developed by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), an office of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in conjunction with the Health Services Executive (HSE), and aim to ensure children's safety, improve their life opportunities and promote their welfare, health and happiness.

Speaking today in Farmleigh at a seminar for staff in accommodation centres and other stakeholders, the Minister particularly welcomed the "two documents which will make a valuable contribution to ensuring these opportunities for a potentially vulnerable group, namely asylum seeking children living in accommodation centres."á The two policies are entitled:

  • Child Protection Policy for Accommodation Centres
    This policy was developed by the RIA, in conjunction with the HSE, in recognition of the Agency's responsibilities under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.á Other developments aimed at promoting the welfare of children in Accommodation centres include the provision of indoor and outdoor play areas; on-site pre-school facilitates; improved linkages with organisations such as the County Childcare Committees, VEC and youth services; the establishment of a number of local inter-agency working groups, to promote synergy and improve responsiveness, and plans to develop supports for non-national parents.
  • Infant Feeding Guidelines for Direct Provision Centres
    This document was developed in line with the recommendations from UNICEF and the World Health Organisation.á They recommend some changes within reception and accommodation centres aimed at improving the health and nutrition of babies and children resident in these centres.

Outlining radical changes in the asylum population in recent years, the Minster noted "The numbers of people seeking asylum has reduced significantly in recent years, from 11,634 in 2002, to 4,766 in 2004.á A number of factors have resulted in reduced pressure on our systems and resources, such as speedier processing of asylum applications which has resulted in the elimination of backlogs and also of course, the constitutional change of 2004.á This has enabled the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to enhance its service provision.á The RIA currently provides accommodation for approximately 6,100 people in 75 reception/accommodation centres spread over 24 counties.á A significant proportion of residents in these centres are children, primarily in the pre-school age group.

These guidelines will provide valuable information for accommodation centre staff regarding best practice, as well as the practical application of the guidelines."

21 October 2005.á