MASI: Statement on the Programme for Government

MASI: Statement on the Programme for Government, 19 June 2020:

The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland welcomes the inclusion of ending the abhorrent system of Direct Provision in the negotiated programme for government. For the first time since the system of Direct Provision was introduced 20 years ago, there is acceptance that it cannot go on any longer. MASI commends the Green Party for their insistence that ending Direct Provision must be included in the programme for government. The recognition that capital investment will be required in order to move to a more humane asylum reception process and an end to the profiteering racket that is Direct Provision is welcomed as a point of departure.

The system of Direct Provision was criticised by rights groups and campaigners from the day it was created. As recently as January 2020, the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on Ireland to phase out the system of Direct Provision. In 2019, the Faculty of Paediatrics in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, and the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, informed by the impact of the Direct Provision system on children’s lives, both called on Ireland to end the system of Direct Provision. It is time for the next government to listen to these calls and end Direct Provision as a matter of urgency.

MASI is troubled by the interim measures in the briefing note that was sent to TDs from the Expert Group examining, amongst other things, the Direct Provision system. The interim recommendations which are also cited in the programme for government do not adequately address the core issues in Direct Provision such as the poverty asylum-seeking children are forced to endure. This state-sponsored poverty was highlighted throughout the Covid-19 pandemic when parents could not afford learning resources required for homeschooling and had to rely on handouts. The dignity of asylum-seeking parents is undermined when they are deliberately placed in a position where they cannot provide for their children’s material needs, and the right to human dignity is inviolable in EU law.

The interim recommendations ought to have included a recommendation on the petty weekly allowance asylum seekers are expected to survive on. The Irish Refugee Council and others recently called on the government to increase the weekly allowance of €38.80 to €58.80 and this proposal was rejected by the government. The school year may start in September and members of the public will be left to fill the gap when the back to school allowance does not meet the needs of asylum-seeking children whose parents face enormous barriers in accessing the labour market. MASI’s concern is that while there route of travel is to end Direct Provision, there seems to be no appreciation of the harm caused by Direct Provision on the 60 000+ people who have gone through it over the years, hence the need for a tribunal to investigate breaches of fundamental human rights in Direct Provision for appropriate redress.

It is also disgraceful that the government must be told by an “Expert Group” to obey the law as many of the interim recommendations are already required in domestic and international law. Matters such as standards for accommodation, bank accounts, and vulnerability assessments are not optional nice things to do but are legal obligations that must be upheld by the Irish State.

And while the programme for government includes regularisation of undocumented people, it is silent on the brutal deportation regime that has seen many migrants who have spent years in Direct Provision and children who were born and raised in Ireland being deported. What all of these issues highlight is that there is a lot of work to be done to address the institutional racism that is deeply ingrained in how the Irish State treats asylum seekers. MASI will continue campaigning for change until every one of the Direct Provision centres is closed and asylum seekers are assisted to live independently in the community.