By Memet Uludag, Convenor United Against Racism
The national demonstration was organised by United Against Racism and supported by more than 30 campaign groups, trade unions, NGOs and political parties, including People Before Profit, Solidarity, the Green Party, Irish Refugee Council, Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, European Network Against Racism, Galway Anti-Racism Network, Unite, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Rosa and others.
It was attended by large groups of asylum seekers currently in Direct Provision centres in Dublin, Galway, Sligo, Cork, Kerry and Limerick.
The demands of the demonstration were, ending of the direct provision system, the right to work, access to third level education and social protection for asylum seekers.
The march from Garden of Remembrance to City Hall was very lively and protestors chanted, “One Race Human Race”, “No hate no fear, refugees are welcome here”, “End direct provision-No deportations”.
Direct Provision was introduced in 2000 to accommodate asylum seekers while their refugee applications were processed. Currently there are 5000 asylum seekers, including 1600 children in 35, mostly privately operated, centres. Direct Provision centres are run for profit by more than 15 private operators and over the years companies like Aramark, Fazyard, and Mosney Holiday have made millions of Euro profits from government contracts. These operators are compared to US prison business run by private companies.
Asylum seekers in Direct Provision have no right to work, they cannot avail of free third level education and don’t receive any social welfare payments. Instead the government pays a miserable €21.60 per week allowance. Direct Provision centres are restricted areas with strict access control and management practices.
Many asylum seekers speaking at the demo, some more than 7 years in the system, told their stories of Direct Provision and the serious issues they are facing in this segregated, prison like living environment. Many are facing physical and mental health issues and feel trapped in DP without an end in sight.
Among the speakers were also anti-racism activists and TDs. People Before Profit TD Brid Smith said, “It was my privilege to speak at yesterday’s march and rally to end Direct Provision.
“This cruel system punishes people fleeing war, poverty and injustice while at the same time our government pampers the rich tax dodgers and robber-bankers. We must challenge these priorities and embrace humanity.”
Activists pointed out that the recent plans by the government to give asylum seekers a very limited right to work would not help 90% of the people in direct provision due to restrictive conditions attached to this proposed change.
Speakers also condemned deportations and demanded the government stop the deportations of asylum seekers.
Organisers have called for further actions and protests until the entire system is ended and asylum seekers are given the chance to re-build their lives in Ireland.
For many years United Against Racism has been actively campaigning against Direct Provision. It has organised many events and demonstrations with more people joining the campaign.
If you like to take part in the end direct provision campaign join United Against Racism here http://www.united-against-racism.net/join-uar/