Seanad debates

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Skellig Star Direct Provision Centre and the Future of Direct Provision: Statements


10:30 am

Eileen Flynn (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister for taking the time to come to the Chamber and listen to the important points raised by Senators. I want to start by saying that people in direct provision are not just like us. In fact, they are far from like us because they are living in hell under this State. No matter who we are or where we come from, we all deserve a roof over our heads, a place to call home and water and food to keep us healthy and alive. For many people who seek asylum in Ireland, they do not get those things. Right now, there are families in Kerry who are living in fear, in accommodation that is not suitable and which puts them at risk of catching Covid-19. They are fearful and worried about their health and their future.

Direct provision is dangerous. That is not just my opinion or the opinion of the people who are seeking asylum and living in the direct provision centres that are owned by private companies which make profit out of warehousing human beings. In a statement today, the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, MASI, and other groups, together with residents, calls on the Department of Justice and Equality to move asylum seekers out of the Skellig Star centre without delay. The Government has committed to ending direct provision but what exactly does that mean? How much worse does the situation have to get and how much more cruelty will be allowed against the people in direct provision, who are living at the very edge of Irish society and do not have a say in that society?

We have a long history in Ireland of treating unwanted people a certain way. As an unwanted person, I know what that feels like. There is a history of putting up high walls and hiding us away from wider society. We have had scandal after scandal, apology after apology and report after report. We are violating people's human rights by putting them in direct provision centres. They were set up more than 20 years ago with the intention that people would go into them for six months, after which they would be able to live their lives. The system has never worked like that. It is clear that the treatment of asylum seekers in Ireland, especially children, is yet another scandal for the State. How will the Government choose to be remembered by history? Will it be remembered as the Government that dragged its feet and did nothing about the violation of the human rights of people in direct provision, or will it be remembered as the Government that fully put an end to that system?

Everybody in this House would be very grateful if the Minister could, if possible, give a timeline for how the Government intends to deal with this matter. Where there is a will, there is a way and the will must be there to take action now. Nobody knows the shoe is cutting only the person who is wearing it. We can stand up here today as white people and talk about what is happening to people in direct provision, but none of us knows what it feels like to live there. We are all in agreement that action needs to be taken. We would like nothing more than to know when that action will be taken, and the deadline in this regard, for the people living in these horrible conditions.


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