Direct provision needs ‘urgent action’, say Catholic bishops

International Human Rights Day statement calls on Government to address asylum system

Irish Catholic Bishop’s Conference has welcomed Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald’s new working group on direct provision but called for urgent action from the Government on the issue. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Irish Catholic Bishop’s Conference has welcomed Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald’s new working group on direct provision but called for urgent action from the Government on the issue. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Catholic bishops have appealed for urgent action by the Government to address the direct provision system for asylum seekers.

They welcomed Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald’s establishment of a working group on direct provision. However they appealed for “urgent action, prioritising the needs of those who have spent more than five years in this very difficult situation and the children who are prevented from experiencing normal family life at a critical stage in their development.”

‘Clear and urgent need’

In a statement the bishops said: “We can see the clear and urgent need for the Irish and British governments to recognise and address the unjust systems that leave people seeking asylum at the margins of our communities; socially and culturally excluded, prevented from working and integrating in society.”

The statement, released to mark International Human Rights Day, said: “This year, the United Nations Refugee Agency reported that the number of displaced persons has surpassed 50 million for the first time since the second World War.”

The statement said that “after three years of taking in more refugees per capita than any other country in the world, Lebanon and Jordan cannot cope with more refugees and borders are closing.”

“To our collective shame, countries outside the region have only agreed to receive a total of about 50,000 refugees from Syria, less than two per cent of the total number of Syrian refugees.”

The bishops also noted how, at the end of 2012, “half of all refugees were hosted by countries with a GDP per capita of less than $5,000 (€4,000). To put that in context, Ireland’s GDP per capita is $47,000.”

The bishops’ agency Trócaire works with Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon and those displaced by conflict in South Sudan. The agency paid tribute to “the courage of those who risk their lives working in dangerous conditions to defend the rights of the most vulnerable.”

Pope Francis

The bishops recalled Pope Francis’s address to the European Parliament last month, in which he said: “We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery,” given that there are, “boats landing daily on the shores of Europe filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance.”

The pontiff has also noted how the EU ran the risk of encouraging solutions “which fail to take into account the human dignity of immigrants, and thus contribute to slave labour and continuing social tensions.”