Thursday, 30 July 2020
Skellig Star Direct Provision Centre and the Future of Direct Provision: Statements
I welcome the Minister to the House. If she performs as she did in her role as Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs, the Department of Justice and Equality will have a great Minister.I am delighted to see her here. We have been bashing this about for some time.
I became a Member of the Seanad in 2014 and, at some point in 2014 or 2015, Senator Norris introduced a Bill on direct provision. All of those in this House at the time said some grand words. We were going to fix the problem overnight. We have not fixed the problem. We have never tackled the problem of asylum seekers, refugees and economic migrants coming into this country. I do not believe that anybody in this Parliament, apart from myself, went to Sicily to see at first hand how the process operated when there were literally tens of thousands of migrants crossing the Mediterranean. God help them. At the least the young men were able to care for themselves but I met young women in Sicily and what they want through to get there from Tripoli and various other parts of north Africa was unbelievable. I am afraid grand words about asylum seekers, direct provision and so on rest absolutely nowhere with me.
I have not been to Cahersiveen so I will not speak about it. I do not believe about speaking about things I have not seen at first hand. I am, however, extremely concerned that the programme for Government states that we are going to develop a not-for-profit direct provision centre. I would love somebody to explain what this means. The State shirked its responsibility to provide proper accommodation for asylum seekers, refugees and economic migrants coming into this country many years ago. It took soft options. I am not accusing the Minister; I am talking about the system. It took soft options. It went to small villages in which hotels were closed up because of the economic crisis that began in 2008. It quietly and sneakily went into these villages and did deals with hotel owners, NAMA or anyone else involved in order to bring these most unfortunate people to these villages. We really did not care for the people who came into this country. We treated them as a problem and they have been a problem ever since they arrived.
The other thing we did wrong, as my colleague has pointed out, was to limit access to education. Children born here went from national school through to the leaving certificate. How did that happen? Why did we shirk our responsibility to assess those who came into the country as genuine asylum seekers, genuine refugees or economic migrants so that those who did not fit the criteria for entry could be dealt with in a short period of time and sent home? That might sound heartless but in doing what we have done we have affected those who came to our country. We have made their lives miserable by sticking them in these God forsaken places for years on end.
I do not see a way around profit. I thank the profiteers who provided the accommodation the State could not. I would love somebody to explain that.
The large numbers brought to small villages have decimated political careers in this House. I refer to the careers of both those who won seats and those who lost them. This occurred because of deals being done behind candidates' backs. That was terrible. I hate to see this issue moving from one Department to another. I am not convinced that it will happen.