Fresh calls for an end to the direct provision regime for asylum seekers have been made in advance of World Refugee Day today
A former asylum seeker who lived in a direct-provision centre in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, suggested such facilities were particularly inappropriate in rural communities.
“Integration does not happen in rural places with this system,” Kany Kazadi said.
“It was clear there were two separate communities in this small town. I was always identifiable as a woman of colour walking down its main street.
“If I had been given the opportunity to work or to upskill, then it would have been a different experience,” she said.
“Direct provision has to go. We don’t want to live like prisoners, we don’t need your sympathy, we want to be understood. We have so much talent,” she added.
Ms Kazadi was speaking at a seminar, Immigration in Ireland, held over the weekend in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, as part of its exhibition Migrant Women – Shared Experiences, and in association with the Mary Robinson Centre, Ballina, and Mayo Intercultural Action (MIA).
Ms Kazadi said that she had kept her sanity by signing up for every course on offer but that, sadly, some of her friends did not “survive the journey, mentally”.
There are still more than 250 people “living in limbo, in isolation” in the Ballyhaunis centre, she said.
Under direct provision, adult asylum seekers are are entitled to an allowance of €19.10 a week but are not allowed to work. The payment for children rose last January from €9.60 to €16.60 a week.
MIA co-ordinator Natalya Pestova said Mayo was now home to 13,500 migrants, which according to the last census was 10 per cent of the county’s population.
“Asylum seekers are afforded the least amount of human rights, live in open-prison conditions and are denied a family life,” Dr Pestova said.
She said the organisation “has never received core-funding, which must be established at policy level so that we have to stop begging”.
“Direct provision has to go. Integration must be accepted and diversity celebrated.”
Prof Jane Freedman of the University of Paris said: “We have a responsibility to hold our politicians to account for their abject failure in dealing with this. The exhibition here at the museum shows there have always been waves of migration. We don’t need more external and internal borders.”
To mark World Refugee Day, MIA has co-ordinated an exhibition in 22 of Castlebar’s shop windows reflecting the positive contribution of an interculturalist ethos.