Submission to the Department of Justice | Regularisation of Undocumented People in Ireland | 17th May 2021
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) welcomes plan to regularise undocumented people in Ireland. Noting that a survey amongst undocumented people showed that 9 in every 10 undocumented people are working, 1 and in solidarity with Justice for the Undocumented (JFU) who have campaigned for regularisation of undocumented people, MASI submits the following comments for the Minister to consider in crafting a regularisation scheme:
Bright has been in Direct Provision for 6 long years with no privacy, dignity and is not allowed to work. The Catherine Day Group said asylum seekers like Bright should be allowed to work. The Irish government has REFUSED to grant the right to work to many asylum seekers like Bright.
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) calls on the Minister for Justice to implement the recommendation by the Catherine Day Advisory Group to use her discretionary power to grant permission to remain to people who have been in the asylum process for 2 years at the end of 2020. The Minister has not committed to implementing this recommendation. MASI is concerned that the Department of Justice is not using the opportunity provided by Covid-19 related travel restrictions in reducing number of new asylum claims in the State to ramp up processing of long standing backlogs. The average processing time at the International Protection Office was more than 17 months in 2020. For a long time asylum seekers have spent more than a year waiting for an initial decision on their asylum claim, even prior to the pandemic.
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) notes the publication of the White Paper on ending the abhorrent system of Direct Provision. MASI intends to discuss the White Paper at its weekly Tuesday meeting. At glance, there are some positives in the White Paper in relation to provision of income supports that are equal to the supports provided for Irish nationals. And the ending of shared intimate living spaces for families is to be welcomed. The White Paper is ambitious in some areas and lacks imagination in others.
To revoke deportation orders issued to children who were born in Ireland to non-EU/EEA parents.
Why is this important? “Before the pandemic, a 10 year old child who was born and grew up in Ireland was deported to Nigeria. Today, more children who were born in Ireland face the threat of deportation.
Last year, Minister McEntee spoke in the Oireachtas and expressed support for a bill that seeks to provide a pathway to citizenship for children who are born in Ireland to non-EU/EEA nationals.
While the bill is not law yet, we are concerned that a number of children who were born in Ireland face the threat of deportation. Belkisa was still learning to walk on her own when she was served with a deportation order. And her baby brother Enis was born 6 months ago with a deportation order. Their parents are not allowed to work so that they can provide for their needs while in the State with a deportation order. Children grow up and their material needs grow each day.
Minister Helen McEntee has discretionary power to revoke this deportation order and grant the family permission to remain. This is a call to Minister McEntee to put to action the words she spoke in the Oireachtas when she expressed support for the Irish Nationality and Citizenship (Naturalisation of Minors Born in Ireland) Bill 2018. Revoke the deportation orders, and provide a pathway to citizenship for children born in Ireland to non-EU/EEA parents.”
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) is shocked to learn that Ms Una McGurk SC is the tribunal member who upheld the International Protection Office (IPO) decision to refuse refugee status to a bisexual man. The IPO rejected his asylum claim on the grounds that he had not established a well founded fear of persecution. Apparently the fact that he would face jail time or the death sentence in Nigeria due to his sexual orientation does not, in the IPO’s opinion, qualify him for refugee status.
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) is appalled by the decision to reduce the waiting time to 6 months. There is no plausible justification for keeping people out of work. In May last year, Catherine Day who chaired the advisory group that was reviewing Ireland’s asylum reception system recommended that asylum seekers be allowed to work within 3 months from the date of applying for protection in Ireland; that the permit is issued in the form of a GNIB/Irish Residency Permit Card; the permit is valid for 12 months and renewable; and it is issued to all asylum seekers in Direct Provision who haven’t received a final decision on their asylum claim. Catherine Day further called on the government to give asylum seekers access to bank accounts and driving licences.
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) is appalled by yet another decision issued by the International Protection Office (IPO) in the Department of Justice which would lead to the deportation of an LGBTQ+ asylum seeker because the Irish State finds it implausible that a young gay man would have sex with another man in a country where the law and custom forbid it (see paragraph 9 here).
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) welcomes the decision taken by the Minister for Justice to review the expulsion notices that were given to asylum-seeking healthcare workers. The two migrant healthcare workers who initially spoke out against this appalling decision to expel them from Ireland have since been granted leave to remain. The expulsion notices that were served on migrant healthcare workers who had dedicated their lives to protecting vulnerable Irish nationals in nursing homes were simply cruel. They caused a lot of distress on those directly affected and should never have happened.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.