A lively demonstration was held in Dublin on Saturday 18th November against the Irish Government’s policy towards asylum seekers. A coalition including United Against Racism organised the demonstration, seeking the right to work for asylum seekers and the end of Direct Provision.
Direct Provision was introduced as a “temporary measure” in 200 but is still being used approaching two decades later. In the Irish state asylum seekers, i.e those who seek to live here to escape persecution or danger to their lives in their homelands, are obliged to live in centres while waiting years for their applications to be processed. In the meantime they are not permitted to seek employment, receive €21.60 a week and may not even prepare food to cook food in the centres where they have to live.
Children of asylum seekers are obliged to live in these conditions and, when they reach 18 years of age, are denied access to third-level education.
The protest march started at Dublin’s Garden of Rembrance and proceeded down O’Connell Street, heading along Dame Street towards the plaza by the side of City Hall and in front of Dublin Castle, where speakers addressed the crowd. Along the way some drums were beaten and they shouted slogans including “One Race – the Human Race!” “We want the right to work!” “End deportations!”
Another slogan was the call of “Amandla” (“Power”, in Zulu and Xhosa), responded to by “Owetu!” (“to us”); this call-and-response was well-known in the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa.
In the last ten years, according to a media report in July of this year, 44 people have died in direct provision, at least two of them confirmed as suicides. However, the causes of death of fifteen of those were listed as “unknown”, according to The Catholic newspaper, which obtained the figures under a Freedom of Information application to the Reception and Integration Agency, which runs the centres. At the time, the Department of Justice, under which the RIA operates, pointed out that most of the deaths occurred outside the centres but avoided clarifying that in effect this means that they die in hospital.
Also in July, a report into what children in Direct Provision Centres think of their accommodation was published. The Child Law Clinic at University College Cork carried out the research, speaking to children in the direct provision system aged between 8-17 years of age. Many complained of the food and some also complained that they did not use the communal relaxation areas as young male refugee and asylum seekers congregated there – apparently there are no children-safe areas available.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan (who had but recently taken over from Frances Fitzgerald) welcomed the report but Tanya Ward of the Children’s Rights Alliance said that it is of “deep concern” that some children feel unsafe in direct provision centres.