A family of six has taken a High Court challenge against the Government’s direct provision scheme under which asylum-seekers are provided with accommodation and a small weekly allowance while their applications are being processed.
The processing of applications, with no guarantee of a satisfactory outcome, can take up to ten years. The family – from Africa – has been living under direct provision for over four years.
They argue that direct provision violates their rights to private and family life under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Step into my shoes! – Irish limbo: No weekends, work, holidays or privacy
We asked a former asylum-seeker to tell our readers what it’s like living in a direct provision centre. They recently acquired refugee status and moved into normal accommodation. The writer (who has availed of a number of courses run by their local development company) put themselves in the shoes of an ordinary Irish person looking in from outside:
There is no doubt we Irish pride ourselves on being humanitarian; that we like to give to help people outside the country who are in need. Charity giving is part of our history but how do we treat those people who fled their oppressive governments and have come to us for protection?
That is a different thing.
Like many Irish I live close to an asylum hostel in my city. I have seen some of the adults hanging around the shopping mall. It never occurred to me to find out about their living situation; not until I met and visited two women of my age who are seeking asylum here.
I was utterly shocked at their living conditions. I never thought of seeing such a situation in my country where two adult women with babies could share a room for more than three years; and where some single ones have shared a room for eight years. I visited a family of six who had been living in a room of our standard bedroom size for seven years. All the children were born in Ireland. But they have not been allowed to become Irish citizens. The parents, though well educated, were not allowed to work, nor permitted to cook for themselves.
Like everyone in the hostel, the family I met have been queuing up for food in the dining hall for seven years. As a mother of three children, I enjoy my children watching me cooking. It is a natural learning process for future adults. My children, like most others, decide what they want to eat.
In some hostels, asylum seekers must sign in each day. They are not allowed to visit friends or travel for Christmas or holidays within Ireland. Even when this is allowed there is no finance for the trip. Lack of finance means most asylum seek parents have to avoid weekend outings with their children.
Through my visits I discovered Ireland’s limbo camp, an area like an open prison for the very people we ought to protect. To the outside world Ireland is a country that champions human rights, especially the rights of children. Yet, next door to me is an open prison for children, parents and helpless singles who languish in the asylum hostels. I then realised why some of them take to hanging around the mall; the situation they find themselves in has depressed and demoralised them. The asylum seeker parents have no room for being a model for their children.
I believe that protecting children’s rights is more important than any political or economic considerations that have caused people living in Ireland to be placed in this inhumane situation.