Direct provision is ‘killing our souls’, protest hears

Group marches in Dublin and calls for end to system for accommodating asylum seekers

 

Up to 500 people marched in Dublin on Saturday calling for an end to the direct-provision system of accommodating asylum seekers.

Among them were asylum seekers, anti-racism campaigners, a number of TDs and also human rights solicitor Michael Farrell and solicitor and founder of the Not on Our Watch campaign, Gary Daly.

Direct provision, which was introduced in 1999, sees asylum seekers accommodated in centres around the State. Meals are provided and asylum seekers are entitled to €19.10 per adult per week, with a lower rate for children. They are not allowed to work or to engage in education beyond Leaving Certificate. Many remain in the system, which has been condemned by numerous human rights organisations, for up to a decade.

Before the march set off from the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square, Patricia Murambinda (51) spoke. She is an asylum seeker who has been in the direct-provision system in Portlaoise for seven years.

She said direct provision had “taken [her] youthful days”.

“We are in prison, but a prisoner knows exactly when he or she is going to come out of prison. I am telling Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald now, the system is killing our mental health. It is killing our souls. It is killing us.

“I have two hands. I am willing to work. I am willing to pay taxes. I am strong. I keep my head high, so I can live on and fight this system. I want to see the children living a better life.”

Lucky Khambule of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland who has recently been granted refugee status, said the Government must “listen to what the people are saying” and called on people to continue marching and demonstrating.

He called out “Amandla” several times, a Zulu chant meaning “Power”, to which the crowd responded, “Awethu” meaning “to the people”.

‘International mobilisation’

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said the election of Donald Trump as US president, should be a call to “international mobilisation against racism”.

Welcoming the passage in the Dáil last week of a motion calling on the Government to take in up to 200 unaccompanied minors who had been at the makeshift migrant camp in northern France known as the “Jungle”, she said: “We can’t take our foot off the pedal and we must make sure the Government delivers on that commitment.”

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett speaking at the end of the march at the Central Bank plaza, echoed Ms Smith’s call to “mobilise” against Mr Trump’s “agenda of hate”.

“If we do that it will be the opportunity to end direct provision. Suddenly everyone realises what a vile, obnoxious ideology racism is. They recognise the threat. We must mobilise that sentiment against every manifestation of racism, misogyny, inequality, hatred.”

He proposed that people go to the US embassy on Thursday evening “in solidarity with the majority of American people” to demonstrate and “say resist Trump, resist racism, to send a message: there is one race, the human race.” The crowd then chanted: “One race, the human race, one race, the human race.”

The campaign against direct provision is supported by the Unite trade-union, actor Stephen Rae, artist Robert Ballagh, activist Bernadette McAliskey, as well as political parties Sinn Féin, People Before Profit, the Anti-Austerity Alliance, and TDs Catherine Connolly, Clare Daly and Mick Wallace and Maureen O’Sullivan.