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re: direct provision

Posted by Natalya on February 27, 2013 at 22:24:51:

In Reply to: re: direct provision posted by sean on February 27, 2013 at 13:08:40:

I appreciate your comment Sean as you have expressed the stereotypical thinking of the asylum seekers or any other ‘foreigners’ in a nutshell: ‘If it is so bad why they are still here?’
Let me attempt to provide you with some clarity on this issue:

1. Who asylum seekers are and why they come to Ireland?

These are people who have experienced the threat of physical extinction. They are fleeing their home country to escape the death and torture, often having lost their families and homes for ever. They are essentially victims of serious crimes, who ask Irish government for protection. It is not the free choice that brought them here, but the fear of extinction. They just don’t have the opportunity to return to home as often there is no home!
This is a link to a great documentary about a woman refugee from Somalia living in Ireland, worth watching

2. What is Direct Provision?

Asylum seekers in Ireland are staying for long years in the system called ‘Direct provision’, pending the decision of their case by Government authorities. Living through this system is one of the most humiliating experiences one can imagine in the ‘civilised’ society in the developed part of the world. I make this statement not because I have read reports. I have learnt from the residents of the direct provision centre. I have heard and listened to many asylum seekers over the last year, and this is a challenging learning. These people are not secure in the institutional system of Direct Provision in this peaceful and safe country.
Yes there is a food and shelter provided, and here is no immediate threat to the physical existence. ‘What else do they need these foreigners?’ Not that much. Rethinking the system and adjusting it according to people’s essential needs and basic rights. In simple words, respect for human dignity.
Let’s take shelter: can you imagine 3 families sharing standard 3 bedroom townhouse? Sharing one toilet, one kitchen, one washing machine (which may not be fixed for weeks), one bathroom without hot water in the house (people boil kettle to wash), poorly heated only 2 times per 24 hours. Imagine living like that for five years or longer! Imagine your children living in these conditions and trying to do their school homework?
Let’s take food: residents find it hard to eat food provided in canteen. It is not their diet they used to and they quietly struggle, stretching 19,5 euro a week allowance to buy basic food and cook for themselves and children.
Besides these poor living conditions, there is another serious challenge: humiliation of the residents within the institutional environment. This happens in different forms such as threats, bullying, neglect, verbal, emotional abuse, often of the racist nature. The problem is that resident has no opportunity to complain to any statutory body outside the Direct Provision system. People are simply scared to complain and prefer to stay quiet. What I heard is only a tip of iceberg, generally women are afraid to speak up even with me.
In sum, asylum seekers living under the Direct Provision system in Ireland face the following key issues (1) hostile institutional environment; (2) poverty; (3) delays in consideration of their cases up to 7 years!; (4) no rights to work or study for all these years; (5) as a result individuals’ retrogression in terms of mental health, lifetime skills, profession, aptitude to work and earning.

3.Public opinion about asylum seekers

What you have expressed Sean well captures the public perception of migrants in general without distinction and their 'invading' in Ireland. I do not blame you for your comment, which shows at the very least the lack of awareness about asylum seekers and their conditions of stay under Direct Provision. However, do we actually want and able to open our eyes, ears and hearts to the misery of these ‘strangers’ living in our communities?

4. Alternative?

What civil society is trying to achieve is to call on Government to reassess the Direct Provision system and to reform it according to the best principles and values of modern humanity like dignity, fairness and human rights.

The financial worries are overwhelming these days, however what the civil society is talking about is not merely advocating for scarce resources allocation. The re-evaluation of the system and creating of the better model can actually be a cost efficient measure if you wish. At the moment the system benefits few private companies in Ireland who run accommodation centres on public money, they do make profit and they don’t want a change!

There is no simple solution to this situation. However, as active citizens we can start questioning the negative perceptions on situations we do not fully understand, by getting to know better people from different countries living in our communities and neighborhoods.

Local civil society organisations like Mayo Intercultural Action advocate for human rights of the most invisible and powerless individuals in our society, asylum seekers and refugees, and I am proud to be part of it. We are open to hear from you further and if you wish to get involved in our projects and events feel free to contact us on 0949044511.

Natalya Pestova
Mayo Intercultural Action


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