On Monday August 22nd You Jung Han, a Korean resident of the Kinsale Road direct provision centre in Cork, tragically ended her life. She leaves behind a six year old son. Her friends and neighbours in the centre are deeply shocked and traumatised by the young woman’s death. At the time of writing this article, nine days later, no psychologist has visited the centre to offer counselling to the residents. This is in sharp contrast to the manner in which non asylum seekers are treated by the state, in the aftermath of such tragedies. In the eyes of the state asylum seekers are not regarded as being legally resident in the country.
On the Wednesday evening residents of the centre and their supporters gathered to pay their respects to You Jung Han. Flowers were laid at the main entrance and the entourage then moved silently, with lighted candles, to Block 2, w here You and her son lived. The candles were placed in a circle on the ground outside her room. Christian and Muslim prayers were said. Anuli then addressed the mourners. Anuli was given residency last year after spending 10 years in the direct provision system. Both her children were born and spent their formative years in the system.
She spoke of life in direct provision and the mental strain it puts on people. Anuli stated that “depression affects a higher percentage of asylum seekers than is experienced in the wider community. You Jung Han’s death could have been avoided if she had been allowed to live in the community and had full access to medical services.”
Lucky Khambule of MASI (Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland) also spoke. He said that the immediate task was to mourn for You Jung Han and for the residents to get closure. He urged the residents to organise themselves and demand better conditions and services. He stated that direct provision and deportation must end in order for people to be able to live a normal life. He compared receiving a deportation order as like a noose being put around your neck but not knowing when the stool would be kicked from under you.
At least 62 asylum seekers have died in direct provision since 2000. The reason for the unavailability of accurate statistics is that the Dept. of Justice does not hold data on these deaths. There are no records of these people’s names, nationalities or causes of their deaths. As far as the Irish state is concerned, these people never existed.
That is why it is vital that we remember You Jung Han and how she died. We must ensure that hers will be the last death in the direct provision system. We can do that by building a mass campaign of asylum seekers and their supporters against direct provision and deportation.