How slowly they die
as we kneel beside them, whisper in their ear.
And we are too late. We are always too late
Eavan Boland, Outside History (1990)
I would like to thank all contributors for their posts today, in particular persons in the direct provision system, who have shared their own personal experiences and stories from the direct provision system. This event would not have been able to take place without each of these people willing to contribute a post to the marking of 14 Years of Direct Provision in Ireland. A very special thanks to Reuben Hambakachere, who wanted to put his name to the post. Two others deserve special mention, Caroline Reid, Communications Officer, Irish Refugee Council for coordinating blog posts from most of the asylum seekers for today’s blogathon. Also, many thanks to Muireann Ni Raghallaigh for offering advice and assistance throughout.
To get involved in campaigns relating to direct provision, please see the following organisations: Doras Luimni; Irish Refugee Council; Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centreand Anti-Deportation Ireland.
The operation of aspects of direct provision is a
…type of operation one might apply in prisoner of war camps during a war, not the type of approach that a civilised democratic western European country should apply in any situation
So after 14 years after the system of direct provision, where are we? The system of direct provision remains. There is, I believe, no groundswell of support for ending the system of direct provision. Moments that could have hinted at a more systemic change, when we as a State examined how we previously treated those condemned to industrial schools, borstals and Magdalenes. These critical moments for change has passed and gone, but these moments will come again. Those who seek to bring an end to the system of direct provision still have to make it relevant to those beyond asylum seekers, human rights organisations, students, and those of us interested in human rights in academia.
No matter how much those of us already convinced of the need for change, the State will always use the trump card of the spectre of hordes at our borders, scheming and waiting for any sort of humanity to be present within a system that respects fundamental human rights of asylum seekers.
The usual response, is that things would be much worse if asylum seekers were in their country of origin and that asylum seekers themselves are responsible for the time they spend in direct provision through engaging in legal action prevent removal from the State. There are 1,000 cases before the High Court at the moment challenging State immigration decisions (not all asylum, but a large proportion certainly are). Better and fairer decisions reached at the very first instance is the core reform that is needed, but with three different and separate forms of protection potentially available in the State (refugee, subsidiary protection and leave to remain), this shows a deeply flawed status determination system. Access to justice is a fundamental (and oft ignored) aspect of any liberal democratic state, and this is access to justice for all in the State, and not just business. This right must be upheld for asylum seekers seeking to have a decision on whether they are entitled to any form of protection from Ireland.
The system of direct provision is offensive to the very notion of human dignity and the rule of law. A Northern Ireland court refused to return an asylum seeking family to the Republic of Ireland, and the system of reception for asylum seekers in the UK is far from ideal. So we are now in a position that a court in a different jurisdiction has clearly stated that the system of direct provision is not suitable for children. That there has been no response from the Department of Justice or Department of Social Protection to this decision is telling.
Today, many blog posts from asylum seekers themselves note the feelings of despair, helplessness, infantalisation, significant and prolonged social control by private companies who run the direct provision system. The posts have highlighted significant challenges faced by those within the direct provision system putting life on hold for 3, 4, 5 or 7 years.
At a seminar held in UCD on direct provision a number of weeks ago, a participant made the following point:
What if a person with children decided to live, of their own accord, in a system akin to direct provision for years and years on end? Would the Child and Family Agency not intervene in some way so as to protect the welfare of the child?
Today is the 14th year of direct provision. Tomorrow, the 15th year of direct provision begins. Tomorrow, over 4,000 people will wake up to begin another day in direct provision.
Here are all blog posts from this direct provision blogathon:
Dr Jenny Dagg
An individual writes
From a mother in direct provision
Jillian van Turnhout
Irish Association of Social Workers
Deirdre Horgan, Jacqui O’Riordan and Shirley Martin
The writer has been in direct provision for five years now (she is still there)
Dr Muireann Ní Raghallaigh
An asylum seeker writes
A concerned individual
Professor Robbie Gilligan
Anti-Deportation Ireland ( Jacqui O’Riordan and Mike FitzGibbon)
A human being in direct provision
A father and a husband seeking asylum in Ireland
Donnacha O’ Ceallaigh
From an asylum seeker