Michael D Higgins speaks of concern for asylum seekers who experience ‘exclusion’

Opening of joint offices for Irish Refugee Council and Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland

President Michael D Higgins opens the joint offices for the Irish Refugee Council and the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland on Dame Street, Dublin. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

President Michael D Higgins opens the joint offices for the Irish Refugee Council and the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland on Dame Street, Dublin. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

 

President Michael D Higgins has spoken of his concern for asylum seekers who experience “exclusion from full participation in society and the political community”.

Mr Higgins said he knew this was a “profoundly debilitating experience” from his time as a TD, when he worked with “families living lives of uncertainty.”

The President was speaking at the opening of joint offices for the Irish Refugee Council and the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland in Dublin, organisations which provide support to migrants in Ireland.

During his speech, the President spoke of meeting Irish emigrants on trips abroad and called upon Irish people here to “establish a meaningful connection” between “our own history of emigration” and “the contemporary challenges facing migrants living in Ireland”.

He warned that, in the future, Irish people would be judged on how they had responded to “the plight of those who seek refuge here”.

There were encouraging signs, the President said, that some of the most serious issues facing asylum seekers in Ireland were about to be addressed.

In recent weeks the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has launched a working group to review the direct provision system which provides accommodation for asylum seekers while their refugee applications are being processed.

The average wait is currently just under four years. Asylum seekers are not allowed work during this time and are instead given €19.10 per week.

Ireland and and Lithuania are the only countries in Europe with such a ban in place, but, in his speech, the President said he believed there was a “new willingness to review our approach to labour migration”.

A number of asylum seekers , refugees and undocumented were also in attendance at the launch.

Simmi, an asylum seeker who has been living in direct provision with her children for four years said the President’s words had given her “hope”.

Jayson Montenegro, who has been living in Ireland as a undocumented worker for 11 years, said: “This is an historic day. I feel the visit of President Higgins really recognises us as part of Ireland. We are undocumented, but we are part of this community. We are your neighbours, your friends, your colleagues. Ireland is our home.”