NGOs say Irish government is ‘putting people at risk’ by failing to assess asylum seekers’ mental health properly

Photo of a child at the protest of asylum seekers in Ireland holding up a sign that says "Let our voices be heard".
Bryan Wall

Representatives of eight Irish NGOs have voiced their concern that the government is not providing a vulnerability assessment for asylum seekers. According to the spokespeople, the government is “legally required” to provide the assessments but has failed to do so. And this, they stressed, is putting the mental health of asylum seekers at risk.

Government failure

The Irish Refugee Council (IRC) posted the joint statement. Nick Henderson of the IRC argued that many asylum seekers have lived in “very difficult conditions”. He also called on the government to carry out the vulnerability assessments “as soon as possible”. And he pointed out that:

Each person, under law, should have had this assessment within 30 days of making their asylum application, to identify if they are vulnerable and what additional supports they need.

But this “has not happened”.

Another representative said:

By failing to identify individual needs from the outset, the State continues to put vulnerable people at risk.

Contributing to a “deterioration” of people’s physical and mental health

The representatives argued that carrying out the assessments is an “essential” part of the asylum process. Tanya Ward, of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said that children in particular “are extremely vulnerable”. She pointed out that they may have witnessed the deaths of family members. Because of this “significant trauma”, she contended that:

A vulnerability assessment is crucial to ensuring their needs are assessed, identified and addressed as quickly as possible through the appropriate supports and services so that they can enjoy a happy, safe and secure childhood.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland insisted that a vulnerability assessment of trafficking victims “is particularly relevant”. These people, it said, “have very specific needs, requiring gender-sensitive responses and specialised supports”. For its part, Cultúr Migrants Centre stated that a lack of an assessment of asylum seekers might “lead to a deterioration of their physical & mental health”.

Bulelani Mfaco of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) grassroots organisation, meanwhile, argued that people going through the asylum process need “more than food and shelter to live a meaningful life”.

A legal obligation

Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre claimed it’s a “systematic failure” that the government isn’t doing vulnerability assessments. It went further, asserting that the assessment “is a legal obligation not an optional extra”.

Asylum seekers in Ireland live in accommodation called direct provision while the government processes their applications. The system has faced criticism, with asylum seekers having previously staged a protest about their treatment while in direct provision.

Featured image via Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (used with permission)

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