The Lost Lives of Children in Ireland

IRC-Logo.jpgOnce again, another report on the conditions of the ‘soul destroying‘ direct provision system. This time on the horrible institutionalisation of children who live in direct provision centers. Lacking adequate nutrition, privacy, living in poverty and socially excluded from society, the Irish Refugee Councilreport, State Sanctioned Child Poverty and Exclusion dissects the injustice of how Ireland in 2012 treats children. Or more accurately, children whose parents are seeking asylum. There have been a number of campaigns, articles and reports on the direct provision system since 2000 that have categorically illustrated the extremely vulnerable position of those in the direct provision system. I outline some of these at the end of this post. In Ireland, the one thing we do well is developing punitive regimes to punish children. Of course, we do not view it as punishment.

In the past it was Magdalene Laundriesborstalsresidential ‘care’ homes, all operating with support or disinterest of the State. By State, I mean the people of Ireland. There is an obsession with containment of those who we, as a society, find problematic or difficult to deal with. Children of asylum seekers are one such category. We dislike their difference, their otherness, their presence in this country. Not necessarily the children, but their parents. We justify the treatment of asylum seekers by saying how much better off they are here and ‘sure wouldn’t they be worse off in Africa’. Of course not all asylum seekers or their children come from the African continent, but we as society notice those who are more visible due to the colour of their skin. Those children who are caucasian are less visible, we can put these children out of our minds. So, we allow little children to grow up in centers, where they never see their mothers or fathers cook, or clean, or work. We, as a society, allow these children to wallow in an existence for years of set eating times, living with strangers, sharing rooms with other families or individuals.

We allow children to live in these centers and become adults, unless these children are removed from the country with their parents before then. And we, in Ireland, do nothing. We as a society could not give a damn. So tomorrow, when the wording of the long awaited children rights referendum is released, we will pat ourselves on the back, we will show how much we care about children. But only certain children, only ‘our’ children, only those that we deem worthy of rights. Not other children though. Just the children who we imagine as being ‘our’ victims, ‘our’ problems, ‘our’ responsibility. So the system of direct provision, a system that has no legal basis whatsoever, continues to operate. Children will continue to live in these centers, whatever the wording or outcome of the children’s rights referendum. The direct provision system will continue to operate despite the  best efforts of a few NGOs in this area who seek to awake us from our slumber and ask us how we allow this system of direct provision to continue in Ireland in 2012.