Inside Ireland’s System of Direct Provision: Christmas Supper is Served Cold

For many people around the world, Christmas is a time spent enjoying a feast and exchanging gifts with loved ones. Each household has their thing that makes this time feel special. Displaced people usually find this time difficult as they are often away from loved ones with legal barriers keeping them apart. For me and my mother, Christmas meant we would be at home doing the things we never got around to throughout the year – moving the furniture around and painting and redecorating our rooms.

That was our escape. We would deep clean our home. It helped keep uninvited guests away as they would be greeted by furniture at the gate. We are hospitable but not during the one time in the year that we are finally together and can get things done.

So a typical Christmas day begins with getting my younger siblings their Christmas clothes. It’s the one thing most children looked forward to. The children disappear as soon they put on their new clothes. Mother and I would get to work as soon as the children are gone. And when we are done painting and deep cleaning sometime in the afternoon, we’d prepare a feast with all the Stokvel groceries which were usually accompanied by a Sheep that I’d have slaughtered days before Christmas.

We did not have a tradition of exchanging gifts on Christmas day. Even Christmas trees are new in most Black households in South Africa. Most South Africans could not be bothered about Christmas decorations. The only things that matter are new clothes, lots of food and lil bit of booze followed by a trip to the beach on Boxing Day.

For asylum seekers, Christmas can be dreadful, especially when you are away from your family with no idea if you will ever see them again. It can also be dreadful because of the conditions many asylum seekers have to survive in while away from everything that is familiar to them.

Direct Provision presents a different challenge on Christmas day. Preparing a feast for family can be difficult when you are not allowed to cook. The Irish government often applauds itself for allowing some asylum seekers to cook. Knockalisheen Direct Provision centre, owned by the Irish government and run by US Corporation, Aramark, has forbidden asylum seekers from cooking their own meals.

Built by the Irish government with no self-catering facilities, Knockalisheen Direct Provision centre opened its doors in 2001. Some of the asylum seekers staying in the centre have had to cook in their bedrooms when they need a break from dining in the canteen with over 200 strangers from around the world every day.

The idea of family life becomes just that, an idea, one that is not part of the everyday life experiences of residents. Because protecting the right to privacy for asylum seekers was not part of the design. In fact, the entire place was designed to take away rights and any semblance of normal family life but keep people alive. The ghosts of Hungarian refugees who staged a hunger strike in Knockalisheen in the 1950s protesting conditions in the place probably look on wondering if the Irish State will ever learn to stop treating the foreign other with disdain.

This year marks my fourth Christmas in Knockalisheen. I am not big on Christmas as I spend the day binge-watching a television series. One thing has been a common feature on Christmas day in Knockalisheen. The cold chicken leg served with a spoon of coleslaw and potato salad, a leaf of lettuce, 2 onion rings and a bit of cucumber, served on a paper plate and wrapped in cling film, reminds me that this is not home. It’s an institution that has served the same cold Christmas supper for the past 3 holidays I’ve spent here. It is served at midday so that staff can go home early to spend time with their families.

It is not about the food at all though. No asylum seeker flew to Ireland for plate of food. The cold supper perfectly symbolises the Irish State’s policy of Direct Provision which was designed to deter people from coming to Ireland for the purposes of claiming asylum. The civil servants who designed the system and those who maintained it had no regard for the lives that would languish in Direct Provision for years on end.

The Minister for Justice issuing over 400 deportation orders in the middle of a pandemic to people who have spent years in conditions that have been condemned by numerous domestic and international human rights bodies, shows you just how cruel the Irish State can be. Justice is only in the name of the department. Much harm has been inflicted on vulnerable people by the Department of Justice.

Minister Helen Mc Entee told the Dáil that her department had taken a compassionate approach to deportations during the pandemic. But there is nothing compassionate about getting an expulsion order from a government in the middle of a pandemic even if it cannot be acted upon due to travel restrictions.

There are people in Ireland who will be having Christmas supper wondering if it is their last in the country. Every time there is a knock at the door they wonder if it is the police coming to remove them from Ireland with brute force. Some of them are children who were born here and know no other home but Ireland. And Minister Helen McEntee has discretionary power to revoke the deportation orders and grant long-term residency to any non-EU/EEA national. Use of that discretion would be the compassionate thing to do.

As families gather around the world to prepare a Christmas feast, I hope you will spare a thought for people stuck in Direct Provision, immigration detention centres, prisons, and refugee camps around the world. They also want the same thing. To be free to enjoy all the wonderful things that life offers, and navigate the challenges that come with being human on earth without the threat of violence.

*** Bulelani Mfaco reflects from his room in Direct Provision.

Petition: Remove Una McGurk from the International Protection Appeals Tribunal

The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) is deeply disturbed by the presence and participation of a member of the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT) in a rally organised by well known anti-migrant groups and individuals including the Irish Freedom Party.

Questions arise on Ms Una McGurk’s impartiality when assessing appeals for international protection whilst associating herself with anti-migrant groups, individuals, and attends and speaks at rallies organised by them. A quick scroll through her social media accounts reveals that her support for the Irish Freedom Party did not start this weekend.

MASI calls on the Minister to:

1. Seek an immediate suspension of Ms McGurk and report into her conduct from the Chairperson of IPAT.
2. Remove Ms McGurk from her post for a clear breach of the tribunal’s code of conduct.
3. Review any tribunal decisions made by Ms McGurk.
4. Revoke any deportation orders issued after her recommendations to the Minister (from the date of Ms McGurk’s appointment).
5. Bring back to Ireland any asylum seeker who was deported after appearing before Ms McGurk.
6. And finally, establish a commission of inquiry into the tribunal’s decisions as members seem to have an alarmingly high rejection rate.

We believe the Minister, as the only person in the State with the power to declare a person to be a refugee, has acted under biased recommendations from Ms McGurk which undermines the principle of non-refoulement and the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees. We look forward to your urgent action on this matter.

Statement on the Department of Justice monitoring our social media tweets

Friday 14th August 2020

The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) is appalled by the conduct of the Department of Justice who have dedicated civil servants monitoring our tweets. Earlier this year, we learned that the department of justice directed its Transparency Unit to review social media tweets. This came after MASI sent a tweet about an asylum seeker who was found dead in a hotel procured by the Department of Justice to warehouse asylum seekers. The Deputy Secretary General in the department wrote to MASI asking us to delete the tweet as the family had not been notified. We refused to delete the tweet as the information shared did not identify the deceased asylum seeker. Before this, in a briefing organised by the department of justice for civil society groups, the Deputy Secretary General raised “concerns” about MASI tweets as the department has an audience they perhaps do not wish to see the horrendous experiences of asylum seekers in Direct Provision. We informed the department that we will not be told by them how to do our advocacy work. We will tweet whatever we feel like tweeting.

Continue reading

Statement on the Programme for Government

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.

Continue reading

Comments on the government’s response to Covid-19 in Direct Provision

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.

Read more by downloading the full document below….

Petition: Move Asylum Seekers out of Direct Provision Centres

To: Dept of Justice & Dept of Health

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.

Sign petition here:


Statement on the HSE and Department of Justice and Equality measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 in Direct Provision.

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.

Media Enquiries:
Bulelani Mfaco: +353 89 474 2911
Mpho Mokotso: +353 83 380 7644
Farai Chiza: +353 83 043 6204

Statement on the handling of deaths in the asylum process.

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.  

Continue reading

Statement on the government’s appalling response to COVID-19 in Direct Provision

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.

Continue reading

Statement on the Irish government’s response to COVID-19 in Direct Provision

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.

Continue reading

Press Statement: Spike in Deportation Orders

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.

Continue reading

MASI Conference great success

Written by Lucky Khambule on 7th October 2019

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.

Continue reading

Submisson to Justice & Equality Joint Committee

Submisson to Justice & Equality Joint Commitee

27th May 2019

Executive Summary

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.

Continue reading

Attacks on Direct Provision centres: Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland & Anti-Racism Network Joint Statement

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.

Continue reading

A successful end-of-year fundraiser!

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

Inside Ireland’s Direct Provision: A slice of bread and the bureaucracy

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

« Older posts

© 2021 MASI

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑