Leaked Report: Self Serving NGO's Want to Perpetuate Rescue Industry, Not End Direct Provision


Last week, it was revealed that four Irish NGOs – the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Nasc Irish Immigrant Support Centre, Focus Ireland and Sonas Housing – had submitted a report to the Minister for Justice about the accommodation of suspected sex trafficking victims in direct provision centres. While the report raises a number of very valid concerns, it’s unsurprising that one particular line has received the most attention – the allegation that “traffickers have used the asylum system for residency and accommodation while simultaneously trafficking victims”. The media focus on this uncorroborated claim is unfortunate (albeit totally predictable) at a time when asylum seekers’ complaints about their housing are finally starting to get the headlines they should have had for years.



Also totally predictable is the proposed solution from these four organisations, all members of the Turn off the Red Light campaign (TORL): more money for TORL member groups, to provide alternate forms of accommodation.


That proposal, and this report generally, must be seen in its proper context: the funding crisis in the Irish NGO sector. For years, the sector has been propped up by a combination of public money and grants from Atlantic Philanthropies; now, its survival is threatened by austerity-imposed cuts to the former and the imminent withdrawal of the latter. NGOs reliant on these funding streams must try even harder to position themselves as worthy recipients of whatever state money is available.


So it’s no accident that members of the professional NGO class are hyping the importance of the sector in addressing the current controversies over direct provision (while simultaneously ignoring the very powerful and effective protests by asylum seekers themselves). Equally, it’s no accident that “migrant advocacy” NGOs are playing a particularly cynical type of respectability politics, supporting the introduction of a procedure that is openly designed to speed up deportation orders, and getting cosy with the very institution that enforces those orders. The message here is that the NGO sector is a safe pair of hands, which the government can rely on to help it “manage” immigration. But only, of course, if it’s properly funded to do so.


On RTÉ News at One last week, Immigrant Council CEO Denise Charlton was asked whether making special arrangements for suspected victims of sex trafficking might encourage, or cause problems for, other categories of asylum seekers confined to direct provision. Charlton’s surprisingly frank reply was that other categories aren’t the focus of the Immigrant Council’s concern. While this no doubt reflects the organisation’s true position, there is, to state the obvious, only one way to free all asylum seekers from direct provision and that is to end direct provision itself. And that would require allowing asylum seekers to become self-sufficient, thus reducing or eliminating their dependence on public funds - including the funds channelled through the NGOs that purport to act on their behalf. It is hardly a wonder, then, that these groups seem more interested in “reforming” the system than abolishing it.


Of course, the underlying premise of this report – that suspected victims of sex trafficking should be better protected from further harm – is beyond argument. And no doubt there are many in the NGO sector sincerely concerned for these victims’ welfare. But people in direct provision are vulnerable to many different kinds of harm. A genuinely caring approach would see the NGOs step back and throw their support behind the residents protesting in accommodation centres around the country, insisting that they should be the ones at the table with Frances Fitzgerald and Aodhán Ó Riordáin. If they remain unwilling to do so, then questions must be asked about whose interests reports of this type are really intended to serve.


Words: Wendy Lyon, blogger for Femist Ire


The full leaked text of the Immigrant Council of Ireland Report is attached below. 

Proposal for housing of adult victims of sex trafficking.doc143.5 KB