The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland welcomes the inclusion of ending the abhorrent system of Direct Provision in the negotiated programme for government. For the first time since the system of Direct Provision was introduced 20 years ago, there is acceptance that it cannot go on any longer. MASI commends the Green Party for their insistence that ending Direct Provision must be included in the programme for government. The recognition that capital investment will be required in order to move to a more humane asylum reception process and an end to the profiteering racket that is Direct Provision is welcomed as a point of departure.
Submitted to the Special Committee on Covid-19 Prepared by Bulelani Mfaco, May 2020 With thanks to MASI members, asylum seekers in Cahersiveen and Sasha Brown for their contributions
Pre Covid-19 Conditions in Direct Provision
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, life in Direct Provision was difficult. One of the fundamental flaws in abhorrent system of Direct Provision is the congregated nature of for-profit centres with often crammed conditions where asylum seekers are forced to exist in for years on end while waiting for a decision on their asylum claims.
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Urgently move people living in Direct Provision centres to accommodation where they can live with dignity and safety. Right now people seeing asylum are at high risk of contracting Covid19 because of the inhumane conditions in Direct Provision centres.
Why is this important?
People including small children are living in overcrowded rooms, with no privacy or space for self-isolation. The spread of Covid19 is very high in congregated settings and the treatment of people seeking asylum is inhumane. This is a public health and human rights issue and urgent action is needed. People seeking asylum need to be in self-contained accommodation where families can live together and people do not have to share with non-family members.
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland is disappointed to see the government putting a spin on the inability of asylum seekers in many Direct Provision centres to observe social distancing. Asylum seekers in Direct Provision centres across Ireland have to share bedrooms, communal toilets, communal showers, communal kitchens, and canteens with strangers who have their own lives. This makes it impossible to observe social distancing.
This week MASI was contacted by an asylum seeking father who is terrified for his children and pregnant wife as they have difficulty observing social distancing in Knockalisheen Direct Provision centre because they have to use communal facilities daily. Asylum seekers who were moved to newly sourced hotels and new Direct Provision centres are also having the same issue as they are unable to observe social distancing with daily use of communal facilities and bedrooms shared by strangers. And a number of asylum seekers who were moved to some of these hotels where they share bedrooms and other communal areas have tested positive for Covid-19. Asylum seekers who have tested positive and those who have been in self isolation after experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 have reported experiences of stigmatisation.
More disturbing is the newly opened Direct Provision centre in Kerry where toddlers are not being provided with nutritious and age appropriate meals. This is a well documented issue in Direct Provision and it has a negative impact on the children’s wellbeing. We were alarmed when one of our asylum seeking volunteers received a call from a staff member in the Clayton Hotel asking for protocol to be followed when an asylum seeker tests positive for Covid-19. They had just learned about one of their asylum seeking residents who tested positive for Covid-19. When MASI appeared before the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality in the national legislature last year, we raised this matter of placing asylum seekers in the care of profit driven hoteliers who have no idea how to look after vulnerable people.
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland urges the Irish government to source more accommodation to ensure that no single asylum seeker shares a bedroom with a stranger as this situation has already resulted in an outbreak of Covid-19 in several centres where 2 or 3 strangers shared a bedroom. Further to that, the government must ensure that asylum seeking families have self contained units that enable them to observe all the guidelines on social distancing.
And finally, if the Irish government will not listen to asylum seekers who have consistently called for Direct Provision to be abolished, at least listen to the experts. The Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the Faculty of Paediatrics at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland are among bodies who have recently called on the Irish government to end the system of Direct Provision. Ignoring the plight of asylum seeking children who are trapped in state sponsored poverty that robs them of their childhood is a blatant act of cruelty.
About MASI – the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland is a grassroots organisation based in Ireland. We are people who are or have been in the asylum and direct provision system in Ireland, working and advocating together for justice, freedom and dignity for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. Our focus is on the Right to Education and the Right to Work for all people seeking asylum, on the complete abolition of direct provision and an end to deportations.
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland is concerned about the manner in which the Department of Justice and Equality handles deaths in Direct Provision. In November last year, MASI received a message from an asylum seeker who wanted to know what happens when a person dies in the asylum process. Would they, like Sylva Tukula who died in a Direct Provision centre, be buried in an unmarked mass grave without friends, family and ceremony? Fortunately the asylum seeker who had to think about death had a family member that had been ill for some time and were new in the country. Thus the question of being buried in a mass grave does not arise for them. But they had to ask this question because the Department of Justice and Equality has never been transparent about deaths in the asylum reception system. Many asylum seekers are not familiar with procedures to be followed, especially when they wish to have remains repatriated. This is because the Department of Justice and Equality has not published information regarding deaths in Direct Provision which would provide answers to many of these questions.
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) is appalled by the recklessness displayed by the Department of Justice and Equality in responding to Covid19 in Direct Provision. While the news of additional rooms to facilitate self isolation for people in Direct Provision when needed provides some relief, the measures announced by the government do not adequately address the situation of asylum seekers having difficulty observing social distancing.
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland is deeply troubled by the announcement made by the Department of Justice and Equality on the procurement of additional beds for asylum seekers, without providing detailed information on how these beds will be allocated to asylum seekers.
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland is appalled by the discriminatory response to the Covid19 pandemic in Direct Provision. On the 20th March 2020, MASI asked members of the public to email Minister Charlie Flanagan with a simple ask: protect asylum seekers in Direct Provision by ensuring that they are able observe all the Health Service Executive guidelines on social distancing and self isolation, particularly for asylum seekers 60 years of age or older, people with pre-existing health conditions, and asylum seekers in shared and crammed bedrooms, and other congregated gatherings such as canteens during meal times.
MASI – the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland is alarmed by the spike in calls from people who have been issued with a deportation order after spending years in the abhorrent system of Direct Provision. Asif has spent 5 years living in appalling conditions in Mount Trenchard Direct Provision centre. The Department of Justice and Equality ruined his life for 5 years while in Mount Trenchard Direct Provision centre only to serve him with a deportation order instead of providing psychological support. David and Fortunate Nesengani have been in Athlone Direct Provision centre since 2016 and have now been served with a deportation order. Malik and Abdul have spent 4 years living in a Direct Provision centre in Longford before they were served with a deportation order. Such actions demonstrate the cruelty that is deeply entrenched in the Irish asylum system where the Irish government keeps people in appalling conditions for years only to chuck them out in the end.
Today I’m off work to recover, recharge and reflect on what just happened this Saturday. On what message did many people said by just showing up at this grassroots event. I must say #Masiconference was just of a kind, the reaction and the comments from many people that are used to different kinds of conferences, this one just turned out to be exactly what we thought it would be.
MASI is the collective Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, a platform for asylum seekers to join together in unity and purpose. As a group of people directly affected by the system of direct provision and as people who are currently undergoing the international protection application process, we, unlike experts and NGOs, are uniquely placed to offer direction to the Committee on Justice and Equality on these issues.
MASI and ARN come together to strongly condemn those responsible for what appears to be a deliberate arson attack on the Shannon Key West Hotel which took place on January 10th in Rooskey, Co. Leitrim. This hotel was due to open as a Direct Provision centre having been contracted by the Reception and Integration Agency of the Department of Justice and Equality. The intention was for it to house 80 people who are seeking asylum in Ireland.
We had a blast of a night just before Christmas at theWorkman’s Bar at our end of the year fund raising gig.
Wonderful performances from the musicians like DJ Don Rosco, Kaleidoscope collective (They live in Mosney DP centre) they are absolutely brilliant, we also were blessed to have Yankari band, great guys, finally our own MASI DJ Leslie Goldfinger, wonderful play brother. We were also blessed to have the great Clara Rose Thornton doing her spoken word and MC for the night. Continue reading
A mother in Knockalisheen Accommodation Centre was refused a slice of bread for her sick child. The child had been recovering and at 1AM, he wanted something to eat. The mother called a friend to walk her to the reception area to ask for a slice of bread. Aramark staff told her that they received instructions from management not to give residents anything outside meal times. A few hours before the mother went through this, an adult male resident was refused milk and coffee by the same Aramark staff. The Direct Provision centre, like all others without self-catering facilities, has meal times displayed on the notice boards. Continue reading
Asylum seekers mount protest at Cork direct provision centre
Barry Roche – Irish Times – Tuesday 16th September 2014
Up to 300 residents of a direct provision centre for asylum seekers in Cork yesterday mounted a protest at the system of direct provision. Residents at the Kinsale Road Reception and Accommodation Centre on the outskirts of Cork city began the protest at 5am yesterday and blocked staff from gaining entry to the premises. “Some of the people here have been in the Kinsale Road Centre for eight and nine years and they are calling for the ending of the direct provision system once and for all,” said Joe Moore of Anti-Deportation Ireland, which is supporting the action. The protest comes just a day after Minister of State at the Department of Justice Aodhán Ó Ríordáin criticised the way that direct provision centres for asylum seekers are being operated.
The Irish government recently published Statutory Instrument 230 of 2018 which regulates reception conditions for asylum seekers. The regulations also provide for how the State will treat vulnerable persons in the asylum process. Continue reading
Last month, the government opted into the EU Reception Conditions Directive, which among other things allows for a limited right to work for people seeking asylum. Prior to this, Ireland was one of only two EU states that imposed a total ban on access to work for asylum seekers. The opt-in was in response to a Supreme Court ruling in May of last year that found the total and indefinite ban to be unconstitutional.
Did the Supreme Court fail to protect asylum seekers or is the government failing in its redress?
A man from Burma who had spent 8 years in Direct Provision was offered a job while awaiting a decision on his application for International Protection. He could not take up the employment because asylum seekers were barred from seeking work and working while their application is being processed. The application process can be very lengthy. Sometimes it becomes necessary to restart the process. And he did that several times before being granted