Since the tragic deaths of over 1200 migrants in the Mediterranean in April, the issue of migrants and asylum seekers is back on to the political agenda. This crisis has once again highlighted the barbarity and inadequacy of Ireland’s asylum policy.
Contrary to popular myth, Ireland does not have a ‘migrant problem’ or an ‘asylum seeker problem’. A 2013 Eurostat report confirmed that Ireland ranked last out of all EU countries in granting refugee status to asylum seekers.
It has just been announced that the EU is to take 40,000 migrants currently in Italy and Greece, yet Ireland will retain a right to opt out of this measure. This is consistent with previous policy. Ireland accepts only 8% of applications on a first instance basis, compared to the EU average of 25.2%. Thousands of asylum seekers have subsequently been forced in to a lengthy, arduous appeal process which typically results in further rejection of their application.
Refugees caught in this system spend on average 4 years in a Direct Provision Centre where they are not allowed to work and are expected to live on €19.10 a week with only €9.60 per child.. There are 34 Direct Provision centres in Ireland. Here, asylum seekers live in small, unhygienic living spaces. Entire families are forced in to a single room, and children are at a drastically higher risk of suffering mental and physical health problems, such as depression and anxiety. Children make up 1/3 of Ireland’s Direct Provision population. The whole system is deeply inhumane.
In May, the streets of Ireland were covered in posters proclaiming slogans such as “Equality for Everyone” and “Let’s treat everyone equally”.. If the government are serious about equality, then direct provision must be abolished and replaced with a humane system which welcomes asylum seekers and offers them the right to earn a living..
Working class people in Ireland should reject the argument that “we have our own problems to worry about here”. Direct Provision is not in our interests. On the contrary it would benefit all of us if asylum seekers were allowed to work and live in the community. They would support themselves and contribute to society at the same time.
Isolating and stigmatising asylum seekers only serves to stoke up racism and divide us. This may be what our rulers want but we should stand together and fight for our rights together. Direct Provision must go!