“And they keep getting awards out of our misery, but we are still here suffering”

This letter was sent by MASI to the Irish Times last week, signed by MASI activists in direct provision detention in Clare, Cork, Limerick, and Portlaoise. Unfortunately the letter was not published so we are publishing here. We saw an article the next day in the Irish Times announcing that four writers had received awards for their writing about Direct Provision.

And they keep getting awards out of our misery, but we are still here suffering.

The HIQA report on children held in direct provision finds that “young people in these settings were almost nine times more likely to be the subject of a referral relating to child welfare or safety issues than children in the wider community.” (‘’Grave Concerns’ over welfare of asylum seeker children’, Monday May 25th). As people who are detained in the direct provision system, we welcome HIQA’s highlighting of the institutional neglect and deprivation that our children suffer. However, we find ourselves asking, once more, what is going to be done to right these terrible wrongs.

The Working Group that was set up to consider ‘reforms’ to Direct Provision and the Protection Process has finished its work. Publication of its recommendations is expected this month. From the outset it was made clear by the Department of Justice that Direct Provision would remain in place. However, as the people who have lived in direct provision, some of us for ten years and more, we can say with certainty that there can be no reforming this system that blights our children’s well-being, lives and futures.

According to speculations in the press this weekend, the working group proposals will include ‘cost effective’ improvements of living conditions for families. We ask: how can living conditions in the direct provision system be improved when this institution is dysfunctional at its core? Leaks in the media also suggest there will be accelerated and ‘sympathetic’ consideration of the applications of those who have been in the system for five years or more. However, at the same time as these leaks are fed to the media, deportation orders continue to be issued to many people in the system, including those in the system five years and longer. Is this what is meant by ‘Clear the Backlog’? Residency for some, and deportation for many, including many children, back to places where our lives are in danger?

The Committee for Public Oversight and Petitions recently published their report on the Direct Provision system, and unanimously declared the system “not fit for purpose”. Minister Aodhán Ó Riordáin himself has said that the Irish State has to “get over this love affair we have with incarcerating people.” And yet, despite these admissions, the State has no intention of bringing an end to direct provision.

We are weary of the empty promises of those who say they are on the side of justice, yet allow this suffering to continue. Our lives are more than statistics to be haggled over by people who will never have to make the difficult decisions and journeys we have all made, who will never spend a day in the open prisons where we watch our lives and our futures, our hopes, our abilities and our potential dwindle with each passing day. After the resounding vote for equality for LGBT people on May 23rd, Minister Fitzgerald released a statement thanking Irish citizens for “making us all equal”. While we and our children are detained year upon year, deprived of basic rights to work, to education, and access to basic services, it is difficult for us to agree that we are now “all equal”.

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