Activists mark World Refugee Day by calling on Irish politicians to let asylum seekers ‘get on with their lives’

A photo of demonstrators outside Irish parliament on World Refugee Day.
Bryan Wall

Asylum seekers and refugees in Ireland held a demonstration outside Ireland’s parliament on World Refugee Day. They were protesting to highlight their treatment by the government and the use of direct provision. And they called for an end ‘to borders, nations, and deportations’.

Asylum seekers and refugees “just want to get on with their lives”

The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) was at the demonstration. On its Facebook page, it said that speakers at the event pointed out that asylum seekers “just want to get on with their lives”. And that means ending direct provision (the system by which the government houses asylum seekers while it’s assessing their applications) and deportations.

The demonstrators also went on to criticise the role of NGOs in supporting the direct provision system:

Also in attendance was the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). It said it attended to protest Ireland’s role “in the EU border regime”. And it was there to protest Ireland’s poor treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.

Queer Action Ireland was at the protest too. It said the demonstrators called for an end to borders and direct provision:

Evidence of mistreatment

People living in direct provision face many challenges. Conditions are cramped and lack privacy. Asylum seekers and refugees have previously protested against their living conditions in direct provision. But the government continues to use the system to house and feed asylum seekers and refugees.

People who’re living in, or have previously lived in, direct provision recently told a government committee what it’s like. One woman revealed that her child is “showing signs of depression” as a result of their living conditions. Meanwhile, MASI told the committee that another woman had to sell “sexual favours” to support her family while in direct provision.

This explains the importance of direct provision to those protesting. But as one attendee put it, we can’t keep relying on others to educate us about it:

Ending direct provision

The Irish Refugee Council (IRC) also marked World Refugee Day by issuing a press release criticising direct provision. It argued that the government usually places refugees in Ireland:

in ad hoc emergency accommodation: hotels and B&Bs across the country with little or no support bar that coming from local members of the community.

What’s more, it’ll then take 15 months for them to receive a decision on their application from the government. These facts, IRC insisted, “are symptoms of a system that is not working”.

Bulelani Mfaco, a member of MASI, described his own experience of direct provision on the morning of World Refugee Day:

But the government continues to treat asylum seekers and refugees in Ireland in this way. Given this, it’s our responsibility to demand more of the government. And as a result, we must insist at the very least that the basic dignity of those in direct provision is upheld. If we do nothing, we’re just as guilty as the government.

Featured image via Twitter – Screenshot

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