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Feeding foreign asylum seekers: Rules and regulations from Ireland’s RIA

Written By | Apr 24, 2018
foreign asylum seekers vs. Irish homeless

Homelessness in Ireland. Image via Wikipedia, CC 4.0 License)

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2018: This is the third in a series of articles examining the unequal treatment of the homeless citizens of Ireland vs. foreign asylum seekers. Thus far, we have examined the accommodations that the Ministry of Justice and Equality requires for these asylum seekers. In addition, we have reviewed the cleaning services provided to them.

Most noteworthy, however, the government of Ireland treats its own homelessness citizens less specifically. By closely examining pertinent Irish regulations, however, at least one thing appears certain. Few if any of the Ireland’s homeless citizens receive the cleaning services, free clothes laundry facilities, and ironing boards given to foreign asylum seekers. But the issue goes deeper.

This article will examine the catering services the Irish government requires to be provided for foreign asylum seekers.

Note that the same commercial contract describing accommodations and cleaning services provided to foreign asylum seekers also details the catering services they are to receive. Section 5 and its twelve clauses ensure a nutritious and varied menu for every man, woman, child, and baby who receives asylum under the protection of the Minister for Justice and Equality’s Reception and Integration Agency (RIA). This “varied menu” takes into account dietary restrictions related to religious observances, the 24/7 availability of some types of food, and packed lunches under certain circumstances.

General Dietary Requirements benefiting Foreign Asylum Seekers

In addition to the accommodations previously described, contractors must provide full board to every person who lives at an approved center. Contractors prepare, cook and serve breakfast, lunch, and three-course dinners for 5200 people every day in communal facilities all over Ireland.

A 28-day menu cycle must be provided to the RIA when requested. The Minister also “reserves the right” to look over the menu and make “reasonable alterations with regard to types and choice of food offered to Asylum Seekers.”

The Minister also recommends that rice, as well as potatoes and chips (French fries), be served with all main dishes at lunch and dinner. Homeless children eat chips, too.

Especially relevent: Different ethnic groups and individual dietary needs must be accommodated. If Ramadan, which requires fasting during the day, is being observed, early breakfast and late evening meals must be provided in addition to the normal meal service. Contractors are asked to

“Please note that the times and dates for Ramadan change on an annual basis, and some years there may be a significant time difference between start and end of normal meal service and the start and end of fasting.”

The RIA rules governing meal service for asylum seekers are quite specific and detailed as outlined below:

Feeding Babies and Children of Foreign Asylum Seekers

Babies and children must receive formula, infant food, and access to heated milk.  A selection of baby foods and yogurts must be on display and available. All infant food must conform to the “Infant Feeding Guidelines.”

The Contractor must request residents to sign a consent form for changing infant food formula. A copy of the signed consent forms must be maintained for inspection by the RIA.


First of all, the initial meal of the day must include eggs, and at minimum, a choice of three cereals. Examples of acceptable cereals include muesli, cornflakes, porridge, bran flakes, crisped rice, and wheat breakfast biscuits. Next, asylum seekers may also select among brown and white bread, rolls, toast, and various spreads, jams and preserves. They may drink two types of juice, such as orange, grapefruit, cranberry, and apple, as well as milk, tea, and coffee.

They may also choose from a selection of fruit.


Lunch for asylum seekers includes a starter and a main course. Starters can be salad options or soup. The main course consists of a hot dish and a cold dish. One of these can be vegetarian.


Asylum seekers’ dinners must offer three courses. The starter course must offer one hot and one cold choice. Three main courses must be offered, and they must vary daily. These are to include meat, fish, and vegetarian options. Dessert or yogurt is the third course. Tea, coffee, milk, soft drinks, and water are the required beverages.

Outside Normal Meal Times

Additional rules govern food and beverages to be made available outside regular meal times:

In addition to Ramadan accommodations, residents may require food at other times outside of their regular eating times.

Tea/coffee, milk, drinking water and light snacks must be made available to residents.

Adequate arrangements are in place for providing meals to residents who, in exceptional circumstances, are unable to attend normal mealtimes.

Finally, when traveling to Dublin for their interview with the Department of Justice and Equality in connection with their application for asylum, foreign asylum seekers receive packed lunches.

If required, each child going to school carries a packed lunch that includes “at least” a sandwich, fruit and a beverage.

Food Safety Requirements for Foreign Asylum Seekers

In addition, the RIA states that the Contractor is responsible for putting in place a food safety management system incorporating the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). That system must comply with the European Community (Hygiene of Foodstuff) Regulations, 2000 (S.I. No. 165 of 2000).

Contractors must abide by myriad additional regulations to ensure the safety and welfare of asylum seekers. We will address some of these in a future article.

Feeding the Homeless in the Homeland—Not

Clearly, the menu requirements for foreign asylum seekers detailed above are nutritious, plentiful, and varied. They assure the healthy development of children and good maintenance of their parents’ bodies. They even accommodate the rules of a specific religion—Islam—to the extent that one must wonders if asylum seekers have no other religion.

The menu rules above, however, are only for foreign asylum seekers. On the other hand, homeless citizens of Ireland—whose numbers touched 10,000 this month—eat whatever they or their donors can acquire for them. Half of the homeless in Ireland are children—the same number as entire population of full-board asylum seekers in Ireland.

With each passing month, the Minister of Justice and Equality welcomes more asylum seekers to Ireland. They will be fed and housed courtesy of the RIA. But in addition, with each passing month, more citizens of Ireland become homeless. But homegrown homelessness somehow must seem less attractive to the Minister of Justice and Equality than the homelessness of those imported from other lands.

Are all the homeless in Ireland – Irish citizens and “asylum seeking” foreigners – treated equally under equal rules and regulations governing cleanliness and nutrition? Do all receive the same justice?

Not homeless citizens. Not in Ireland.

Next: The Irish Government’s Regulations on the Proper Treatment of Asylum Seekers’ Children


Above image: Homelessness, Georges Street, Dublin, Summer 2016.( Image via Wikimedia, CC 4.0 license)


Frances Ponick

Fran Ponick is a speaker, author, commentator, teacher, and coach. She has decades of experience in technical, business, marketing, and proposal writing and editing, and has won awards in journalism, formal poetry, and acting. She has also served as a consultant to DoD. Her book, Only Angels Can Wing It: How to Prepare a Eulogy Quickly and Present It Compassionately, is available from