Thursday 22 March 2018

Retired Supreme Court judge warns Shatter on asylum seekers

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

THE State could be left apologising for another national scandal if asylum seekers are kept institutionalised, it was claimed.

Retired Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness also warned Justice Minister Alan Shatter "could be chased through the courts" if the youngsters of immigrants are not treated as equals in line with the children's referendum.


Up to 300 people marched through Dublin to his department as part of a national day of action to end Direct Provision, the hostel-style accommodation for asylum seekers.


Ms McGuinesss said the institutionalised accommodation was created as a "panic reaction" to the large number of asylum seekers who arrived in Ireland during the boom and has been allowed to drag on with no outside observation.


She said the standards were having a bad effect on families and particularly children, who should be protected under last year's referendum.


"As the text of the change of the constitution says it's for all children and I think it's very important these children should be safeguarded," said Ms McGuinness, patron of the Irish Refugee Council.


"I would be very concerned that in the future we find ourselves with another huge thing to apologise for, for people who have been kept in institutions for many years with very little supervision and no recourse from the Ombudsman or the Ombudsman for Children and no outside direction on what's happening with them."


Almost a third of the 4,800 people living in Direct Provision accommodation are children.


Under the system the asylum seekers live in hostel-style accommodation where they receive three meals a day and a weekly allowance of 19.10 euro per adult and 9.60 euro per child.


The former judge also called for Ireland to sign up to an EU directive for asylum seekers to be allowed to work while awaiting a decision on residency.


For the last six years Josephine Bakaabtsile and her two daughters have been forced to share one room in a hostel in Clondalkin, west Dublin.


The 32-year-old from Botswana claims the system is inhumane and said she wants to work to support her children.


"Immigration is not crime," she said.


"I have moments in my life when I'm at the edge. Most of us are suicidal at times but I look normal because of my children.


"It's socially, mentally and emotionally distressing for the children too, especially in school. They know they are different."


Lassane Ouedraogo, from Burkina Faso, told the crowd Direct Provision is one of the worst injustices in Irish society and targets the most vulnerable.


He said voiceless people are being forced to live in misery and total poverty for several years.


"We appreciate being safe here, but should we have to suffer so deeply while we wait for decisions on our cases?" asked the 43-year-old, who was moved around several institutions for six years until granted asylum in December.


"We can no longer accept this dehumanising system.


"Asylum seekers are human beings and deserve the right to live equally like any other citizen with dignity."


Sue Conlan, of the Irish Refugee Council, said Ireland is the only country in Europe where asylum seekers have no access to limited work.


"The people in Direct Provision are forced to be dependent on the state, year in year out, with no control over their lives and no opportunity to work or make significant decisions for themselves, let alone their children," she added.


"At the end of this, they are de-skilled and demotivated and then face an enormous challenge to integrate and become self-sufficient after so many years of dependency and social exclusion.


"It is difficult to understand why the authorities maintain this system when the evidence of the human, financial and social cost is clear."

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