The Committee on Justice and Equality in the Irish parliament are inviting written submissions from stakeholders and interested parties on the issues of Ireland’s “direct provision” asylum system, and what can be done to address the many issues that exist within this system.
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) asked groups in Britain and Northern Ireland if they would consider signing the statement below. It asks the Committee to bear in mind the 14 ‘Key principles for justice and dignity in the asylum process’ that MASI have put forward when considering what proposals to recommend to the government.
Organisations in the UK have decades of relevant experience in working on these same issues, and know all too well about the need for a system that treats people with justice and respects their dignity.
In just 24 hours, around twenty groups and prominent individuals backed the statement!
These include Participation & Practice Of Rights (PPR), the Committee on the Administration of Justice, Right to Remain, Bernadette McAliskey, Colin Harvey (QUB), Housing4All, End Deportations Belfast, Migrant Voice, South Yorkshire Refugee Law and Justice, Dr Bethany Waterhouse-Bradley (UU), African Rainbow Family, Barnsley Borough City of Sanctuary, Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group (CARAG), South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG), Unis Resist Border Controls, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSMigrants), Unity Centre Glasgow, Migrants Organising for Rights and Empowerment (MORE), and Govan Community Project.
The statement is as follows:
As organisations and individuals that work with refugees, asylum seekers and other migrant rights in the Britain and Northern Ireland, together we have decades of relevant experience in working on these issues.
We recognise that in it’s almost twenty years of existence, the denial of basic rights in the Direct Provision system has been raised by the United Nations, European and Irish human rights bodies, and most importantly by ex- and current-residents. The Ombudsman for Children has already declared direct provision “wholly unsuitable” for children.
These human rights abuses include, but are not limited to, the long periods people are forced to live in direct provision (average of two years, with over half waiting 5 years), the restrictions on work, the restrictions on cooking and quality of food provided, shared rooms, lack of adequate facilities for children, the extremely low weekly allowance (c.£20 per week), restrictions on accessing third level education, the intimidation residents face when they raise grievances, and the overall enforced dependency and institutionalisation that the system creates.
In regards to improving welfare and conditions of people seeking asylum in Ireland, our recommendations for the Committee are to heed the ‘Key principles for justice and dignity in the asylum process’ put forward by the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI):
1. We seek an asylum system that upholds and vindicates the rights of all international protection applicants – family rights, the right to privacy, the right to education, the right to work, the best interests of the child, vulnerable persons, LGBT rights, women’s rights, the right to religious freedom.
2. Direct Provision must be abolished and nothing resembling Direct Provision can be accepted as an ‘alternative’ to Direct Provision. At the least, this means a return to pre-2000 conditions when people seeking asylum were afforded equal treatment with citizens, with the right to work and access to welfare and housing supports.
3. We ask that people seeking protection in Ireland not be treated as ‘less than’ others and indeed less than human merely because of differences in nationality and citizenship.
4. It is vital that we move away from an asylum system that treats people with suspicion to a system that treats people with respect and assumes eligibility; from a system that is focused on undermining applicants’ credibility, to a system that is focused on vindicating peoples’ right to seek asylum and to live in safety.
5. The reception system for international protection applicants cannot be a ‘for-profit’ enterprise that uses human beings as fodder for profit. It must respect people’s basic human rights including the right to privacy and agency over one’s own life, and it must not subject people to management by others and to the dictatorship of petty bureaucratic processes designed to dehumanise and break us.
6. High quality legal advice must be available to all applicants at all stages of the asylum process. The right to claim asylum is enshrined in international law; as the asylum process is a legal process, the right to high quality legal advice and representation is at the core of the right to claim asylum.
7. RIA, the Reception and Integration Agency, is not fit for purpose and must be abolished.
8. The Department of Justice and Equality should have no part in any thing to do with the accommodation of asylum seekers or with managing employment permits for people in the asylum process. The first should be overseen by local authorities, and the second by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.
9. We fundamentally oppose deportations. Deportations are brutal and dehumanising. Deportation means returning people, often with use of violent physical force, to situations where their lives are in danger, separating children from parents, removing people who have lived here for many years in a state of limbo, and returning children and young people to countries they have never even visited. No society can call itself civilised that condones the horrors of deportation.
10. We demand, at a minimum, transparency, accountability and oversight of what happens at the border, when people are refused entry to the country to exercise their right to claim asylum. There is no transparency about the basis of such refusals, and these decisions are made by immigration officers who often have little knowledge of asylum law.
11. The immediate and full right to work must be given to ALL international protection applicants from when they have their first ‘small’ interview and must remain valid until they are given a positive decision or are removed from or leave the state.
12. Full and free access to education and training at all levels must be available to international protection applicants.
13. The protection of children in the international protection system must be a priority. Children should never be separated from their parents or deported. Children must be enabled to have a normal childhood. People must be enabled to live an independent family life and to have a home, not an institution overseen by ‘managers’.
14. We want Ireland to become a leading country in the way the state treats refugees and people seeking asylum.
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