Members of RAMSI and MASI (Refugee and Migrant Solidarity Ireland and Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland ) including Sophia Sharma, above, gathered outside Leinster House.
Their demonstration took place as, inside the Oireachtas AV room, asylum seekers and members of RAMSI and MASI highlighted their concerns about the new International Protection Act which came into effect earlier this year.
The IPA includes a single application procedure which is meant to bring Ireland in line with other EU countries – whereby the process of applying for refugee protection is streamlined and the length of time that people have to wait for decisions on their applications is reduced.
However, according to RAMSI and MASI, the IPA has resulted in huge confusion when more than 3,000 asylum seekers were asked to submit a new 60-page application in early February.
They also say that the IPA has resulted in a rise in the numbers of people deported and in the numbers of people refused entry at the border, including people from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Eritrea.
Up to 30 asylum seekers, along with members of the groups Movement of Asylum Seekers Ireland and Anti Racism Network, and others, will make a presentation on the International Protection Act (IPA) to members of the Dáil.
As this presentation takes place, supporters will gather outside the gates of the Dáil.
Organisers of the event write:
Last month, the IPO (International Protection Office) launched the single application procedure for asylum seekers in Ireland. In early February the IPO sent a 60-page questionnaire form to over 3000 people in the asylum process to be returned within 20 days, including legal counsel.
This new procedure was supposed to increase the efficiency of Ireland’s asylum process. It has, according to those affected, been a ‘shambolic disaster’. Lack of clarity about the deadline, the paralysis of the swamped Refugee Legal Service, the difficulties of retrieving documentation, poor translations of of the form are just some of the obstacles people have had to deal with as they complete a form determining their future and the futures of their children.
The IPA has introduced sweeping changes to Ireland’s immigration law. Many of its provisions seem designed to undermine the internationally recognised right to seek asylum. While the Department of Justice insists that the single procedure will speed up the asylum process, fears that this will be achieved through accelerated deportations, unmonitored refusals, and defective, erratic assessment processes are being proven all too accurate.
Vicky Donnelly of Galway One World Centre observes: “While Trump’s ‘travel ban’ has, quite correctly, been criticised by politicians here, Ireland has been quietly deporting people at the border before they can even make a proper case for asylum. At a time of unprecedented crisis, when a focus on human rights is most needed, the IPB appears purpose-designed to facilitate and speed up deportations. History will judge us harshly unless we recognise these issues and act to correct them.”
From top: Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking in Capitol Hill last Thursday; former High Court judge Bryan McMahon
You may recall how Taoiseach Enda Kenny gave a speech in the presence of US President Donald Trump at a Friends of Ireland lunch in Capitol Hill, Washington last Thursday, concerning the estimated 50,000 Irish who are living in the United States illegally.
The speech prompted an article in The New York Times headlined, ‘Irish Premier Uses St Patrick’s Day Ritual to Lecture Trump on Immigration’.
At the beginning of his speech, Mr Kenny mentioned that he would be presenting a miniature replica of Arrival, a bronze sculpture of a famine ship by John Behan, to Mr Trump.
In 2000, the then Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Bertie Ahern unveiled the original 26-foot by 26-foot Arrival at the UN headquarters in New York.
“This sculpture celebrates the Irish people who traveled the world in search of a new life and all the nations and countries which welcomed them and offered them a chance for that better life.”
During the speech, Mr Kenny said:
I haven’t had the opportunity to present you with a particular piece of sculpture which is entitled “Arrival,” by John Behan. It’s a miniature — but it’s quite large — of what stands at the United Nations in New York of the tale and the story and the history of Irish immigrants after the famine years.
… I just want to say, I had a very good meeting this morning with the Vice President and with General John Kelly. Sitting at the table, we were hosted by the Vice President in the traditional breakfast in the Naval Observatory. Didn’t get much chance to eat the breakfast, I have to say; it’s one of the difficulties in politics — it’s in front of you but you can’t get near it. We did discuss the question of immigration, which is so important to the fabric of our people. And I know that in this country, this is an issue that the administration and the President are reflecting upon. And that’s something that, again, we will work with you diligently in this regard in the two sectors that we used to have a facility for E3 visas for young people who want to come to America and to work here. We discussed that very constructively this morning.
And secondly, as a part of the overall immigration reform that the Irish have contributed so much, it would be part of that. And we look forward to the works that will take place at the time ahead.
You might say that when Mike Pence’s grandfather landed here in Ellis Island in 1923, that the contribution had been made by so many Irish for so many years. It was in 1771 that the friendly Sons of St. Patrick were put together in Philadelphia, and one of their first honorary members was a young man called George Washington.
And seven years later, he handed the first commission to a naval officer called John Barry, who was co-founder of the American Navy. And he was joined later by John Holland, who designed the first submarine. And he was followed by Louis Brennan, from my hometown, who had a major impact on the navigation systems for torpedoes.
And so many others, from Henry Ford, through music and culture, and so many other areas, that 22 members of the American Presidents who sat in the White House had either Scots or Irish blood in them. And you follow in that line, sir. And I’d just like to say in finality, this is what I said to your predecessor on a number of occasions: We would like this to be sorted. It would remove a burden of so many people that they can stand out in the light and say, now I am free to contribute to America as I know I can. And that’s what people want.
I know you’ll reflect on this, but I’m always struck by the American National Anthem when it’s sung before the great occasions. And I suppose being an emotional Irishman, the hairs tingle at the back of your neck when you hear your own national anthem.
But for us, when Old Glory waves, and you put your hand on your heart and you say, “The land of the free and the home of the brave,” ours is still as brave as ever, but maybe not as free. Because of the 4,000 Congressional Medals of Honor given out to the defense forces, over 2,000 go to the Irish Americans. So they fought in the Revolutionary War. They beat the daylights out of each other in Fredericksburg and Gettysburg and Yorktown, and other places, in Atlanta. They fought every war for America and died for America — and will continue to do so. All they want is the opportunity to be free.
And this administration, working with Democrats and Republicans, I hope, can sort this out once and for all. And for future years, you determine what it is that you want to do. As George Mitchell said last evening, you can’t return to open immigration, but for the people who are here — who should be here, might be here — that’s an issue that I’m sure your administration will reflect on. And we in Ireland will give you every assistance in that regard. There are millions out there who want to play their part for America — if you like, who want to make America great. Heard it before? Heard that before?
Further to this…
Readers may recall there are an estimated 20,000-26,000 undocumented migrants living and working in Ireland.
In addition, readers may recall how Direct Provision is the system by which asylum seekers are accommodated in Ireland and it is overlooked by the Reception Integration Agency. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work or go to college while the majority of people living in Direct Provision have no facility to cook their own food.
Adults receive €19.10 per week while children receive €15.60 per week.
In April 2016, retired Judge Bryan McMahon spoke at an event in the Jesuit Refugee Service.
Criticising the length of time asylum seekers have to live in direct provision, Mr McMahon called for a blanket, one-off amnesty for the 3,500 people who had been in direct provision for more than five years – in the spirit of 1916.
“That would be a great start, in my view, just to take the 3,500 people and say, ‘it’s not going to happen again, it’s a one-off and it’s a gesture to 1916 and the men in the GPO’. No one, in my view, would object, that’s my instinct on it and, in fact, au contraire, most people would applaud us for doing something like that.”
The junior justice minister David Stanton, of Fine Gael, subsequently ruled out the idea.
Graphs from the Reception Integration Agency report for January 2017
Some details pertaining to asylum seekers in Ireland…
According to the most recent report from the Reception Integration Agency, as of January 29, 2017, 57,644 people seeking asylum in Ireland have been accommodated in direct provision centres since April 10, 2000 – the year direct provision was set up as an interim measure.
This figure of 57,644 does not include the 2,838 unaccompanied minors – children who have arrived in the country without a parent or guardian – who have sought asylum over the same period.
Between 2000 and 2010, 513 separated children went missing from State care and 440 were still unaccounted for in 2011.
In 2009 – when, as of 2008, 454 separated children had gone missing and just 58 were subsequently accounted for – in a report on separated children, the Ombudsman for Children wrote:
“This large number of missing children is alarming as is the apparent lack of further investigation into incidents.”
A mechanism to allow asylum seekers make formal written complaints about the centres was only introduced by the Department of Justice in 2011 but it has been criticised by asylum seekers and advocacy groups for not being independent of the RIA.
In 2014, the High Court found that the lack of an independent complaints mechanism was unlawful.
Just last month, the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon announced that the Ombudsman for Children’s office plans to start accepting complaints from children in Direct Provision from April 2017.
As of January 2017, 4,427 people – including 1,139 children aged under 17 – were living in 32 direct provision centres across Ireland. This number of people represents 0.09% of the population.
Just two of the 32 centres are self-catering centres – Watergate House on Usher’s Quay, Dublin 8 and Carroll Village in Dundalk, Co Louth – where a total of 118 people lived, as of January 2017.
Children protesting at the Kinsale Road Direct Provision Centre in Cork in September 2014
Kitty Holland, in The Irish Times, reports:
Over 1,000 asylum seekers will get their Christmas “bonus” this week – of €16.23 for adults and €13.26 for their children.
These asylum seekers are among 1.2 million welfare recipients who will get the “bonus”, worth 85 per cent of their weekly allowance, along with their regular payment, between now and Friday.
According to figures from the Department of Social Protection, some 1,170 recipients of the direct provision allowance – of €19.10 per week for adults and €15.60 for children, will be entitled to the “bonus”.
This country is no stranger to emigration, at its highest point only three fifths of those born here stayed. The others left without skills and mostly from the poorest parts of the country. For every 100 migrants that left, only six returned. Millions of Irish have left these shores in search of a better life and it’s still happening, there are over 200,000 less twenty-somethings in Ireland today compared to six years ago, one in six Irish born people live abroad.
Compare this to our treatment of those seeking asylum in Ireland. Direct provision, introduced as a temporary measure in 2000, is still with us today. Adults receive €19.10 per week, children receive €15.60, asylum seekers are not allowed to cook, nor to work. The average amount of time spent in direct provision is 38 months, one third of those in direct provision are children, of which 55% have spent over five years in the system.
Since its inception until 2015, the Irish State has paid €890million to providers who run direct provision centres. Companies are paid €30 per day per person in privately owned centres, €15 per day in State-owned centres. Certain companies have established entities in offshore jurisdictions and are under no obligation to publish their profits. From the period of 2011-2015, nine companies have been paid in excess of €10million from the State.
In the preceding year to June 2016, Ireland had received 2,780 asylum applications, a mere fraction of the amount of similar size European countries like Denmark (21,000 applicants) and Norway (28,000 applicants). Figures from the Office of Refugee Applications Commissioner in 2015 showed that only 9.8pc of applications were granted leave to remain.
Amjad Rosstami is a 44-year-old Iranian Kurdish man who came to Ireland several months ago seeking asylum.
He reportedly came to Ireland via Britain where he was for four years.
After Ireland’s Department of Justice refused his application for refugee protection, Amjad faced a deportation order – to send him back to the UK – prompting him to go on hunger strike.
He is now on the 35th day of his hunger strike.
Ahmad Kamal, from Sudan, is Amjad’s roommate at Globe House where there were 195 asylum seekers living at the end of 2015. Ahmad has been in the direct provision system for 11 years.
Last Saturday, Ahmad spoke at Saturday’s rally in Dublin, calling for an end to the direct provision system and spoke of Amjad’s situation.
This morning, on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show, journalist Brian O’Connell broadcast an interview he carried out with Ahmad in Sligo last night.
“We share a room, he’s on hunger strike for 34 days. The first days were very horrible days – he was dying because [he was taking] no water, no food and his body not used to it. And then [after several days] when he started drinking [water], he seemed to be a little bit okay. Just, he’s so weak and he lost a lot of weight.
“He used to be very healthy, muscle man, now he’s very weak. He’s looking like he’s dying. He’s not moving out of the room, he just keeps lying in the bed because he has no energy to move. He’s sugar is low, his blood pressure is low and he’s, he’s too weak.”
“He wants Ireland to look after his case. He’s like lost for four years in the UK. The UK, they refused him so he decided to come to Ireland. He thought that this is his last chance. Die or Ireland will look after him.”
“He’s in danger. Iran want him, he’s wanted there and if he’s sent back, he will be killed there.”
“He’s a very quiet man, he’s very gentle. He doesn’t talk much. I really worry about my friend, he’s getting weaker and weaker every day. A couple of days [ago] he stopped drinking water and now he’s on hunger strike without water…”
Mr O’Connell explained that, at around 9pm last night, Amjad was complaining of severe stomach pains, an ambulance was called and he was transferred to Sligo General Hospital.
He said it’s unclear whether Amjad remains in the hospital or if he has been discharged.
Mr O’Connell also reported:
“There was a dramatic development in the case this morning. A Government source has confirmed that the deportation order has now been lifted and when I put it to them that the protest is continuing unless written confirmation is given, I’m told this will happen in the next few days – that he will be brought back into the asylum process on the basis that he stops his protest.
“Now, it’s unclear at the moment whether that will be enough to end the hunger strike, as he said he would only end the strike if he was officially interviewed by Department of Justice officials but it is a significant development. The deportation order which had been hanging over him has been lifted.
“But I guess many people at the vigil last night were asking: how was it that somebody could have been allowed spend 35 days on hunger strike before any significant progress was made?“
Before reading on I must tell you that at the moment in Ireland there are people who have lived for up to 11 years in direct provision. I also heard from a teacher in Galway of a child in her class who has lived ten years of her life in direct provision so far…
In The Bogman’s Cannon, writer Sarah Clancy provides an explainer/run-down on what is Direct Provision [at link below] while. above, artists speak out during the anti-DP rally run by United Against Racism on Saturday.
President Higgins marked United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty with an address at the Famine monument.
President Higgins said:
“When strangers who arrive on our shores in need or difficulty are left in the uncertain limbo of direct provision for anything up to ten years, I am ashamed.
When homeless families are forced to live in one hotel room devoid of cooking facilities, and subjected to a dehumanising set of rules and conditions; when others without a roof over their head are condemned to wander the streets by day, and desperately seek space in homeless shelters by night, we as a nation are failing to display the necessary spirit of humanity on which a democracy should be built.”