Wednesday 21 August 2019

Siobhán Brett: ''New Yorker' takes aim at 'daily cruelty' of direct provision syste'

The Mosney Direct Provision centre in Co Meath (Niall Carson/PA)
The Mosney Direct Provision centre in Co Meath (Niall Carson/PA)

Siobhán Brett

In The New Yorker earlier this week, in a rare instance, the author and journalist Masha Gessen reported from Dublin, Galway, Waterford, Lisdoonvarna and Mosney. The subject was Ireland's system of direct provision.

Russian-born Gessen is a heavyweight on any number of socio- and geopolitical subjects, and has written extensively on migration in recent years. Anybody with a loose grip on the precise workings of the direct provision system would do well to read her damning 4,000-word report.

It presents the system of Irish for-profit accommodation centres for asylum-seekers as "perhaps unique in its daily cruelty".

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In reporting the layered deprivation of liberties like privacy, space and the ability to cook for one's family, Gessen meets with people whose mental health has greatly suffered in direct provision.

She considers waiting periods - at one stage, one third of direct provision residents had been in the system for three years - and outlines the prospects of reform, however distant. "In Ireland, advocates for asylum-seekers often find themselves in the peculiar position of organising for improvements to a system that they want dismantled," she writes.

Elsewhere, Gessen notes, the arrangement is worse. Here in the US, asylum-seekers are incarcerated on arrival and thousands of families have been separated under a botched policy of the Trump administration. Days ago it was reported that migrants' medicines are being confiscated at border crossings without return or replacement.

Faced daily with such extremes, I had lost sight of the dramatic shortcomings and injustice of the Irish system. Two things can be true, and bad, at once. I feel grateful for the reminder.

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