Way we treat asylum seekers will be State's next apology
I realise that we all have our individual news agendas. All right, all right, not everyone is swept by melancholia on hearing of the death of the man who invented the Daleks. (Ray Cusick died in his sleep last Thursday at the age of 84).
But I would have thought there would have been slightly more noise about the treatment of asylum seekers when the latest news about them arrived on the same day as the reports on the Taoiseach’s apology, on behalf of the nation, to the Magdalene women.
It is hard to imagine now that the Taoiseach gives great speeches about them, but, as he recalled in that speech, there was a time when the Magdalene women were deeply unpopular.
When no one wished to hear about them, when they were regarded as morally questionable and not at all respectable. A time when the public in general and the media in particular were not even curious about the Magdalene women or how they lived.
Now the asylum seekers in Ireland are in danger of being regarded in pretty much the same way.
We look on them with suspicion and would really rather not know the details of their lives, even though there are 500 children of asylum seekers living in what Carl O’Brien, in this newspaper on Saturday, called “grinding poverty, overcrowding and even malnutrition”.
It is true that there are a good many lies and prevarications – to say the least of it – in the process of seeking asylum. Only a fool would think otherwise. The Irish have been successfully cheating the immigration systems and social welfare systems of other countries for decades, and going on to lead happy and productive lives there.
We are a nation of chancers, and there are advantages to that. But at home we have a duty of care to the children of asylum seekers, most of whom are not fraudulent, and to face reality.
Last week in the Dáil, on the same day that the Taoiseach apologised to the Magdalene women, a written question revealed that the Irish taxpayer paid out €655 million between 2000 and 2010 to provide asylum seekers with accommodation. That is a very high price to pay for the luxury of forgetting about a group of people you don’t like.
That same accommodation was characterised by a European Commission on Human Rights report last December as having “negative consequences on their mental health, family ties and integration prospects”.
“The response has been muted,” said Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan, who tabled the written question.
Amongst other things it revealed that the company that runs the asylum seekers’ accommodation at the former Mosney holiday camp in Co Meath was paid €89.5 million between 2000 and 2010.