Bishop criticises ‘dehumanising’ treatment of asylum seekers

Like Irish people in England, Australia and the US, all have good reasons for being here, says Kevin Doran

The Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran said it is not reasonable that the asylum process should go on for years. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

The Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran said it is not reasonable that the asylum process should go on for years. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 01:00

A Catholic bishop has accused the Government of cynicism in its treatment of asylum seekers while at the same time appealing for an amnesty for illegal Irish immigrants in the US.

The Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran said this morning that “when people apply for asylum, it is reasonable that the State makes a fair judgement as to whether or not they should be given refugee status. It is not reasonable, however, that the process should go on for years”.

Speaking at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Sligo town, he continued “nor is it fair that men, women and children should be required to live in conditions which prevent them from living a normal family life, developing their skills, or earning their own bread. Living such a half-life would suck the music out of the soul of any human being.

“It seems particularly cynical that, while imposing this kind of regime on asylum seekers here, the Irish Government consistently appeals to the US government to offer an amnesty to illegal Irish immigrants in America.”

He welcomed the fact “that there seems to be some recognition in Government circles in recent times that the system of direct provision is dehumanising and I look forward to seeing a more humane system in the very near future”.

Speaking at a Mass to mark Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Sligo he said, “we have, living among us, but on the fringes of our society, people who have come here seeking asylum. Like the Irish who have gone to England, Australia and the United States, they all have their own good reasons for being there”.

He noted how “in recent years our economic difficulties have brought real suffering to many and, with that suffering there has, understandably, come resentment. To use a musical image, there often seems to be a lack of harmony in our society. Instead of all the instruments working together, the different sectors seem to be in competition and sometimes in conflict.

“There is a certain discord between labour and capital; between the public sector and the private sector, between the urban and the rural. It is perfectly legitimate for us to see things differently. But beneath that, at a deeper level, we are all one body; we have the same music in our souls. If I lose respect for the other as a person like me, with the same hopes and the same fundamental needs, then I have lost respect for myself.”