Doras: Promoting and Protecting Human Rights
Doras was established in 2000 by a small group of devoted volunteers in reaction to the Irish government’s creation of the Direct Provision policy. The name Doras (Irish for “door”) was selected as an acronym for Development Organisation for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, a symbolic open door inviting new communities to Ireland.
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In the year 2000, the Direct Provision system was introduced to house asylum seekers who arrive in Ireland seeking international protection. It was intended to be an “interim” scheme that would include housing for six months as people awaited the result of their application, but most applicants end up staying longer. Doras believes that the current institutional system creates barriers to integration, contributes to poor mental and physical health, and leads to social exclusion, with asylum seekers being five times more likely to experience mental health issues and psychiatric conditions.
In Ireland, over 7,000 residents are housed in Direct Provision facilities. Initially, Doras provided English courses and outreach trips to Direct Provision centres to assist asylum seekers and have since worked to abolish the system of Direct Provision. Helping asylum seekers at the local level remains a vital part of their work today.
People are housed in shared institutional centres or former hotels around the country under the Direct Provision scheme. Commercial contractors operate the vast majority of the centres on behalf of the State for a profit. In the past two decades, Direct Provision accommodation providers have received more than €1.6 billion in direct provision lodging contracts.
The private contractors who operate these Direct Provision centres will undoubtedly argue that they are saving the government money, but their real motivation is to protect their profits. To reduce maintenance costs, these facilities will frequently seek out competitive options in order to save money. As a result, a number of key issues have emerged across the country’s 38 centres:
- Isolated locations: Some of the centres are in remote areas with few transportation links or social facilities.
- Privacy and overcrowding: Residents live in communal housing, with single adults sharing rooms with up to eight other individuals from various backgrounds and nationalities.
- Food: Three meals are served at designated times per day, with only some centres having minimal cooking facilities for residents wishing to prepare their own meals. There have been complaints about the lack of variety and choices in the centres, often with no healthy options to help sustain a balanced diet.
- Standards & monitoring: Living arrangements differ significantly from one centre to the next. There is no confidence in the complaints process of the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS), and there is no publicly available information on complaints or relocation decisions. The current inspection scheme prioritises health and safety concerns over residents’ social and emotional needs.
Doras has stepped up time and time again to defend the interests of refugees in Ireland’s long-running fight to end Direct Provision. The organisation provides immediate assistance to those who are in need by offering free and confidential legal counsel and information on immigration-related topics such as asylum applications; migrant employment rights; the reporting of bigotry and hate crimes; and the long arduous task of championing for family reunification within the system. Every year 1,200 migrants avail of the vital services Doras provides.
Integration is a crucial goal of Doras’ mission statement. To achieve this, they collaborate with various other organisations, including statutory, voluntary, and community bodies, to support integration efforts and keep integration on the political agenda, ensuring that all those who now call Ireland home feel valued, recognised, and welcomed. Combating bigotry and fostering anti-racism are also critical components of their integration policy.
Despite the fact that national and international analysis has shown substantial levels of discrimination in Ireland, and despite having one of the highest rates of hate crime among EU nations, Ireland remains one of the few countries without hate crime laws. Doras has led campaigns for better processes, practices, and legislation at the national level to discuss and fight racial prejudice in Irish society. As a member of the Irish Network Against Racism (INAR), Doras collaborates with other organisations across the country to develop and implement a National Action Plan Against Racism.
Doras has expanded over the years in response to new challenges and now employs a team of full-time and part-time employees, as well as a strong volunteer base. Doras began working on a refugee relocation initiative in Portlaoise as part of the Irish Refugee Resettlement Programme in early 2015. This project aimed to help newly arriving Syrian refugees integrate successfully into Irish life. Following the success of this scheme, further relocation schemes were launched in the counties of Wexford in 2017 and Limerick in 2018.
Doras continues to advocate for and defend the interests of migrants in Ireland today, providing direct assistance, lobbying, and integration support.