At the Asylum Seekers Feminist Conference, which took place prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, TheCity.ie spoke to Eoin from Abolish Direct Provision Ireland and conference attendees about the impact of Direct Provision on their wellbeing. By Kate Brayden, Cameron Weymes and Ayumi Miyano.
Many of those who came to the conference travelled to be there in order to hear guest speakers and panelists give talks on mental health and host art and yoga workshops. Sonia from Cameroon, Julie from Uganda — whose company ‘Julie’s Kitchen’ catered at the conference — and organiser Eoin generously spoke to us about their unique and personal experiences.
The controversial system of asylum has repeatedly hit the headlines over the mistreatment of those who must wait for their refugee status to be granted, or to be allowed to stay in Ireland. One of the State’s largest providers of accommodation to asylum seekers recorded a pretax profit of €2.36 million in 2018. That the Irish Government allows the system of asylum to be a for-profit service for multinational corporations such as Aramark has been a dominant point of frustrations. Those in the system receive just €38.80 as a weekly Daily Expenses Allowance, and are often moved to differing centres around Ireland before given time to settle in to the local community.
Many centres are located in isolated areas, far away from local villages, which harms the mental health of asylum seekers – who have few options for seeking out services and often face language barriers. For those who have survived war, famine, discrimination and sexual violence, their trauma cannot be addressed. Living conditions in certain regional centres have been a cause for complaint, as well as the troubling impact of the situation on children living in the system.
It’s worth noting that the Irish State’s response to Covid-19 in terms of testing those in Direct Provision has been heavily criticised by human rights groups, politicians, lawyers and health experts alike for effectively ignoring their concerns and putting them at risk. There are currently around 1,700 residents in centres around the country – 149 had tested positive for the coronavirus as of early May.