Speaking Directly

at

This morning.

In Committee Room 2 in Leinster House.

Members of the Irish Refugee Council and Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) – including Lucky Khambule and Bulelani Mfaco – are appearing before the Oireachtas justice committee.

They are discussing direct provision and the international protection process.

Just yesterday, the Ombudsman Peter Tyndall said direct provision centres are unsuitable for longer-term occupation and called for a formal resettlement programme to be put in place.

At the end of his opening contribution, Mr Mfaco said:

“We are human beings, like everyone, like all of you. All we ask is that we be treated as such. The very fact that people have to ask the Government to treat them humanely should shame all of you.”

UPDATE:

Donnah Vumah, of MASI, told the committee that there is a dearth of mental health services available to people living in direct provision.

She said the “only thing there at the moment” are posters in the centres telling people they can contact The Samaritans or Spirasi (an organisation which helps survivors of torture who are asylum seekers, refugees, or other disadvantaged migrant groups).

However, Donnah said securing an appointment with Spirasi requires asylum seekers to get that appointment through a referral from a solicitor or from a GP and that usually takes a “very long time”.

She added:

“This is why we find that a lot of people tend to turn to things like sleeping tablets or alcohol, they develop a lot of addictions such as gambling addictions because they are trying to find a way to cope with living in that situation.”

Lucky Khambule told the committee that the number of suicide attempts in direct provision centres has increased in the past 18 months.

He said last year alone there were five deaths in direct provision.

He said some of these deaths concerned individuals with mental health issues while some were using sleeping tablets.

“We feel this is not qualified obviously, that the provision of the tablets, in terms of addressing the mental health issue, is the wrong one. The psychological traumas that people do face in direct provision are the things that need to be addressed in a very, very serious way.

“Otherwise we will see more deaths happening in direct provision because we ignore the signs that are there on mental health issues.”

MASI member Tinda Ndlovu told the committee that she and her three children live in Direct Provision.

She said that her eldest child, aged nine, has previously said to her:

“Sometimes when I feel sad, I feel like kiling myself.”

Mr Mfaco, who is gay and living in Knockalisheen Direct Provision Centre in Clare, spoke about homophobic slurs that he has received at the centre.

He said he doesn’t trust anyone in the centre and when he goes to eat in its canteen, he will sit somewhere with his back against the wall as he doesn’t feel comfortable.

He added:

“You have staff members in direct provision who also undermine privacy for individuals.

“I was sitting in my room one day and they knocked once and they opened the door. It’s a lady who worked in Knockalisheen. She knocked once, she opened the door and I was sitting in my room getting ready to go and have a shower.

“So obviously I had my underwear on.

“The next time it happened it was a manager in Knockalisheen direct provision centre who walked into the men’s showers, in the men’s block…She opened the door in the men’s showers, she looked, and then she closed the doors and said ‘sorry’ as she walked away.

“It’s a man’s shower. What are you expecting to see there? Like privacy means nothing to them.”

“We’ve had similar incidences in Hatch Hall Direct Provision Centre and in Balseskin Direct Provision Centre [both in Dublin] where either a staff person walks into a room where a person is naked or another resident walks into a room and the person is naked.”

“We’ve had experiences from children who feel unsafe in the way that men look at them, creepily, it’s been reported in the news.

“…women who feel unsafe sharing those intimate living spaces with other people because a lot of the women, some of them would have suffered torture or sexual violence and to be placed then in a position where you feel you’re unsafe again becomes very cruel.”

Mr Mfaco also spoke about the sexual exploitation of some people living in direct provision.

He said:

When people aren’t allowed to work legally, it creates then the openness for whoever wants to exploit them to actually do… and we’ve had people who come to MASI who work from 7am in the morning until 5pm and they are only paid €25 to €27.

“It becomes very difficult then for a person to live a normal life because they don’t have a sense of what their rights are once they are actually given permission to leave – they might just continue with that exploitation.

“We’ve also had people being offered money for sex in direct provision.

“Because people know that there are people who are getting paid €21.60 per week, it’s now €38.80, and you have to live.

“I’ve been offered money for sex, there are children who’ve been offered money for sex, there are women who’ve been offered money for sex.

“So it becomes very, the exploitation, we don’t know to what extent that it is happening but we have reports from our work and other people.”

Christopher Sibanda, who has lived in a direct provision centre in Waterford for the past three years and travels to Dublin for college every day – therefore spends six hours on the road – told the committee that he shares a room with three other men.

He said the room is four metres long by four metres wide.

He said he would invite any politician to join him and a spend a night in his centre to see what life is like in direct provision.

He said:

“In that same environment, in that same centre, Viking House, there is no area where if you come today and visit me, where you can sit and talk to me, just greet me. There is none.

“That is not human living.

“The jailer-prisoner attitude that pervades there is not for human beings.

“…the treatment by the centre managements, I don’t know what is in place by RIA [Reception Integration Agency] that has been put in place for training of the people that work there because they do have the feeling that they are jailers there and that we are prisoners.

“And that they are doing favours for us.

From the kitchen staff – you get people being thrown with plates of food. Some times those plates will fall and people will laugh.

That happens to human beings [inaudible] who will be in a queue by the way and you will then beg for food.

“If you happen to miss a meal, you miss a meal, you know you’ve missed a meal, you can come back, the same food that has not been served because I missed meal obviously, there will be leftovers, cannot be served to me because I’m out of meal time.

“That is not human.”

Mr Sibanda also said he cannot take a lunch from the centre with him when he leaves for college.

Mr Mfaco also spoke about how many children and adults “warehoused” in direct provision centres are prevented from integrating in Irish society and, in fact, “segregated” from Irish people.

He said:

“Like when you go, get off the bus in Limerick city centre. You see all these brown people, you actually see Irish people staring at us and going ‘where did this bus come from?’

“It has brown people. They don’t look like, they look different, it only has them.

“Everybody knows it’s from a direct provision centre.

“When the bus shows up at the school. Some of the school kids are ashamed, of their friends to know, but everybody knows that that school bus is going to take them to a direct provision centre.”

Mr Mfaco said it’s a similar situation for adult asylum seekers when they go to their local Post Office to collect their weekly allowance.

“Everybody in the queue, everybody in the Post Office staff, know that that person lives in a direct provision centre.

“…you’re constantly reminded of how bad your life is, and you’re constantly reminded that you are not considered part of Irish society. You’re divorced from social life, you can’t really socialise on €38.80 while you’re living in Mount Trenchard [Limerick], there is no public transport.

“There is no public transport in Knockalisheen and other direct provision centres as well.”

He later added:

We get called ‘welfare scroungers, fee loaders. We’ve had, in the election campaign, we’ve been called freeloaders, we never asked.

“When an asylum seeker came to Ireland, they never asked the Irish Government for a plate of food. Nobody arrives at Dublin Airport and says ‘I’d like to have food please’.

“So when you tell me that you’re providing me with food, I never asked for any of that, I asked for protection. 

“So it becomes very difficult to even begin to talk about integration for us when we have people being warehoused in direct provision centres without access to very basic everyday things.”

The meeting can be watched in the video link above and here.

Previously: In Direct Provision For 14 Years

52 thoughts on “Speaking Directly

  1. Billy

    If the state can’t build affordable housing for the tens of thousands of tax paying working class people or house the 10,000+ homeless.
    How can it even start to think about housing 6,000 refugees??
    Sorry for you Lucky but get in line.

      1. Mickey Twopints

        I have never in my life heard anyone I would consider a charitable and empathetic person use those words.

  2. Ian Riordan

    Improve the appeal process. If you fail your appeal you have to go. Clears up the way for those who’s appeals are successful. System is being clogged up. Repeated appealers are creating the problem, them and them alone.

    1. postmanpat

      yeah , but nobody just “go’s” . there’s a little known dirty little secret: the problem with flying failed asylum seekers back to some of these countries. In Chinas case they simply don’t allow the returning to land in the airport. I f a Chinese overstays his/her visa they get to stay. and there’s nothing we can do about it. There’s also due processing of sending someone back and the days it takes (we are not right-wing Australia who just snatch and bundle you on a plane within 24 hours) to arrange the travel is plenty of time for the migrant centre to contact a defense lawyer firm who will be waiting at the departure gate with all the legal mumbo jumbo paperwork blocking the deportation and immigration will have to just hand the person back over . Ten minutes later they are in a taxi with their lawyers driving back down the M50 .

      1. Mickey Twopints

        So, postmanpat.

        In the few days since the national scandal of DP last raised its head here on Broadsheet, have you educated yourself as to what Direct Provision actually means?

  3. Jake38

    “Just yesterday, the Ombudsman Peter Tyndall said direct provision centres are unsuitable for longer-term occupation…………”

    Correct. So speed up the process. Cut short the endless appeals which serve only to enrich further the lawyer class. Grant asylum to those who qualify, and speedily deport those who don’t.

  4. Blonto

    Direct Provision is a racist, bigoted system that is inhumane. It’s a short hop and a skip from concentration camps.

    1. Jeffrey

      There’s no winning here. You deport them back > racist. You keep them here but no funding for better accomodation > racist.

      What do you suggest?

      1. Blonto

        There’s plenty of money to provide housing for locals and immigrants. This govt is pandering to the landlords, hotels etc.
        Build, build, buld.
        I we were about to build massive corporation developments in the 50’s and 60’s, surely we can build now.

        1. Andrew

          Should we build houses for illegal immigrants and those fraudulently seeking asylum too Blonto?

        2. Andrew

          But these people are not ‘immigrants’. They are applying for asylum not a working visa. There is no ‘strawman’. Calling DP racist is childish.
          If someone contends that we build houses for everyone who lives here we need to clarify with that someone who exactly are we to build houses for?
          If that person believes there should be no bar to entry for anyone who wished to come here, then they should say so and explain how that will work while they’re at it
          The real issue here is the delays in the process. Nobody should be in DP that long because they appeal p[process is taking so long. Change the appeals process and the problem will be go away.

          1. Barry the Hatchet

            That’s is a little disingenuous, Andrew. A huge aspect of the problem is delay, but that’s not the entirety of the problem. The facilities themselves are not suitable even for reasonably short stays, despite costing a fortune and enriching the private companies which run them. There’s no good reason why people should be crammed in four to a room and denied the ability to cook a meal for themselves, or to have a friend visit them. These people are not criminals and we should stop treating them as such.

    2. Cian

      Direct Provision is racist. All the caucasian Syrians are processed quickly and get asylum. The black Nigerians are refused asylum and need to appeal and are left in DP for years.

      1. Zaccone

        I would imagine that has far more to do with the fact the Syrians are fleeing an actual genocidal war zone, so its pretty easy to assess their need to stay. While the Nigerians are economic migrants.

        1. Mickey Twopints

          This is not true (I wanted to say that it’s total bullshit but the BS sweary filter would get me). Ethnic cleansing and genocide have been extant in Nigeria for decades. I suggest that you get up to speed on modern history (start with the Biafran war) before you make a post like that again, and make yourself look like a complete tool in the process

          1. Cian

            I know some people have been in DP for years and years… but I really don’t think any of them were escaping the Biafran war – it finished in 1970.

          2. millie st murderlark

            Not sure if you’ve ever seen it Mickey, but there’s a documentary on Don McCullin and it covers his work on the Biafran war, and it was truly horrifying, eye-opening stuff. Nations don’t recover from that kind of war in a handful of years. It takes decades to undo that kind of damage.

            If you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend.

          3. Mickey Twopints

            Cian, the conflict in Nigeria continues to this day, it’s just not on Sky News. Please check your facts.

          4. Mickey Twopints

            @Millie

            I’m familiar with the photojournalism work of McCullin, but I have to say I haven’t seen the documentary. Thanks for the steer, I will make it my business to watch it.

          5. Mickey Twopints

            I’m putting that question down to a crude attempt at trolling. The alternatives are that you are irredeemably stupid (which I’m not inclined to believe), or that you haven’t even taken a few minutes to research the history of the former Biafra, and the legacy of that conflict in Nigeria to this day.

            edit: Have you deleted that comment Cian? Probably one of your better ideas, tbf.

          6. Zaccone

            Have you compared the per capita violent death figures in Syria vs Nigera recently? The current low level insurgency in Nigeria is in no way comparable to the full blown civil war that was on-going in Syria until this year.

            To even compare them shows either a complete lack of understanding of statistics, or else an extreme bias against the serious suffering of Syrians this decade.

          7. Mickey Twopints

            I’d be more than confident in pitting my understanding of the Syrian conflict against yours any day, but I have no interest in beating you in a willy waving competition. You made a claim that all Nigerian refugees are economic migrants. That claim is false.

          8. Zaccone

            I’ll take that as a long winded “no” so.

            Nigeria has a population of 200million. UN statistics have cumulative conflict related fatalities there since 1998 of approx 30k. Nigeria is not a deadly war zone. The vast majority of people leaving the country are doing so for economic reasons.

            Syria has(had) a population of 20 million. And since 2011 has suffered 570,000 fatalities. Its a very active war zone, which people are fleeing because they’re at very real risk of losing their life.

            Can you now see why Syrian refugees would justifiably take precedent over Nigerian economic migrants?

          9. Mickey Twopints

            I make no claim of equivalence between Syrian and Nigerian refugees, nor do I take issue with your assertion that the situation in Syria means that their refugees are easier to assess.

            You wrote “…the Nigerians are economic migrants”

            I say that is not true.

            In support of my position, I cite by way of example ongoing sectarian violence, ethnic cleansing, and genocide in the former Biafran territory in Nigeria.

  5. baz

    By their own claims theses people have had to flee their native lands, they are granted refuge here while their claims are investigated and rather than gratefully engaging with our process they belligerently protest (Mosney recently) and attempt to use ‘shame’ as a weapon.

    Maybe these characters will be unpopular wherever they roam?

    1. Brother Barnabas

      abso-fupping-lutely. those fupping ingrates would want to learn some appreciation. in my opinion – and this is just my opinion – the worst among them are the children, especially the ones who were born in the system. like how often have you seen them holding up placards with “Thanks Ireland!”, maybe written in big bubbly, colourful lettering.all this whingeing about just wanting to live normal lives

    2. Mickey Twopints

      “…gratefully engaging with our process…”

      The sentiment behind that phrase brings to mind the 19th Century Punch cartoons depicting Irish refugees as pigs and apes, as likely to rob you or eat your babies as they were to look at you, the dirty animals. Why couldn’t they just be grateful for having access to the coffin ships?

  6. Ian-O

    Irrespective of your view of their entitlement to actually be here and claim asylum, at the very least, we should try to improve their living conditions, even a little?

    It’s not the children are to blame, is it, no matter how viable or not their parents claims?

    Maybe it’s just that stupid compassion that makes me see things this way, life would be a lot easier without it.

  7. Rob_G

    I haven’t watched the entire proceedings, but did any member of the committee ask any of the representatives from MASI which countries they passed through on the way to Ireland, and why was it they didn’t feel safe enough to apply for asylum in any of those places?

    1. Brother Barnabas

      twice

      the first one said his headphones weren’t working so he couldn’t hear the question

      the other one said he just remembered he was late for something very important and had to go

      why do you ask?

    2. Mickey Twopints

      Much more to the point, if they had made the right life choices they could have overcome the difficulties which caused them to run for their lives in the first place.

      1. Andrew

        You’ve established that they are all ‘running for their lives’ then? Those entrusted to hear their applications disagree with you for the most part.

        1. Mickey Twopints

          Andrew, I think you need to up your game in the verbal reasoning department. Just saying.

          1. Rob_G

            Unable to argue the point, he goes for a snotty non-sequitor – I call it the Twopint shuffle.

          2. Mickey Twopints

            Your displays of intellectual rigour are always enlightening, Bobby. Thank you.

  8. Cian

    “Donnah Vumah, of MASI, told the committee that there is a dearth of mental health services available to people living in direct provision.”

    While this is most likely true, there is a dearth of mental health services available to people NOT living in direct provision. We need to improve mental health services for the 5-million-odd people in the country – regardless of where they are living.

  9. kellMA

    For me; there are two separate issues here. Firstly I think we should have the aspiration as irish people to ensure that we endeavour to provide a dignified existence to all who walk our roads. Secondly the assylum process is also broken. How can it be that someone is in the system for over 14 years? Like so many have said here; it should be done and dusted much more efficiently because spurious or false assylum claims cost us money (well so do genuine ones but hey). However one should not rule out the other. Whether we achieve to have a process of 6 months or 14 years, the time spent there should afford some degree of dignity.

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