Direct provision

Published in Issue 3 (May/June 2017), Letters, Volume 25

Sir,—Your editorial in the last issue (HI 25.2, March/April 2017) touched on the new US Trump administration’s 90-day ban on people from seven (later reduced to six) Muslim-majority countries and on Ireland’s policy on asylum-seekers who wait years for a decision to remain or be deported. The US did relax the rules of the ban after concern was expressed by the British government, among others, but there is still uncertainty as to its legality.

Direct provision centres for asylum-seekers were set up in Ireland in 2000. There are now 31 centres, with a reception centre in Dublin for new asylum-seekers. The adults are not allowed access to education or employment, but are provided with meals and a very small stipend weekly. The children attend primary and post-primary schools and they all receive free health care. The reasons why they wait years before a decision are not fully known. ‘Lack of resources’ was a reason given a few years ago, with more resources since allocated.

The Department of Justice and Equality in February 2017 released new figures that show that numbers waiting in direct provision for three years or more have decreased from 2,695 in 2015 to 1,204 in early 2017. The department also said that 92% of recommendations on direct provision have been implemented with the introduction of a single application procedure to reduce delays.

Yet there are still those like Ellie Kisyombe from Malawi in a direct provision centre for almost seven years. She set up the ‘Our Table’ pop-up café in 2015 with food writer Michelle Darmody. She cannot receive an income from it according to the rules of the Refugee Act, 1996 (amended). She also writes a weekly ‘Our Table’ diary in an Irish national newspaper for which she is not allowed payment, although the newspaper does give a donation instead to a refugee cause. She explained the Our Table concept:

‘In April 2015, I met Michelle Darmody and we created Our Table. We use food and cake instead of placards to protest about direct provision and we use food to connect and unite people.’

There are c. 50,000 undocumented Irish people living and working in the US. What would be the reaction here if they were in an immigration centre like direct provision for years waiting for a decision, whatever the decision might be, to stay or leave? See www.undocumentedirish.com and www.ourtable.ie—Yours etc.,

MARY SULLIVAN

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