Friday, October 10, 2014

Ceád Míle Fáilte??

There was a time when the Holiday Camp at Mosney was host to Joe Dolan and Dickie Rock. Thousands danced the night away to 'Oh Me Oh My' and 'The Church with the White Washed Gable'. Sadly Joe is no longer with us. Dickie is still going strong. So too is Mosney. I was there only once. Years ago. Maggie McArdle, God rest her, my favourite Mother in Law, was on a Senior Citizens Weekend Away and we called to visit her. Back in the day. The place was buzzing. Maggie really enjoyed her vacation. So did many others over the decades. When he heard I was to visit there last week Dessie Ellis TD regaled me with tales of his amorous adventures and countless more innocent Dublin family breaks at Mosney.

These days Mosney is an Asylum Accommodation Centre. Me and Seanadoir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Councillor Eimear Ferguson visited it on Friday last.

A letter to Trevor from The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) set out the conditions for our visit. They included a prohibition on media accompanying the delegation, any advance announcement of the visit and a prohibition on 'live tweeting' during the visit.

I don't know the legal basis for these conditions but, with what is probably a former prisoners instinct, I tweeted anyway. Just out of contrariness.

Interestingly I notice that a visit by President Michael D Higgins to an accommodation centre for asylum seekers was cancelled recently after the Department of Justice allegedly refused permission for the event on the grounds of "logistics and safety".

The camp at Mosney is massive. It is well maintained. Clean. Lots of trees and green spaces. The management team who accompanied us were hospitable, friendly and courteous. Some of the residents said Mosney is one of the better centres not least because they have privacy. Some hostels are cramped. They have communal toilets.

There are 602 people in Mosney. Those we met are focussed on getting out off there. Some of them are waiting ten years. It is an indictment of the Government and its predecessor that this is the case. Direct Provision is an inhumane system. No matter how 'attractive' the accommodation may be the system institutionalises people, damages their mental health and forces idleness on them.

Direct Provision is meant to provide for the welfare needs of asylum seekers and their families. It does not. It provides a measly €9.60 a week for each child. What child can be cared for on €9.60 a week? At the end of last year there were 4300 people including 1,666 children were living in this system. Many of the children were born here. Many are denied citizenship. Most have spent their entire childhoods in the system.

The Minister of State for Equality Aodhán Ó Riordáin says a new inspection regime for conditions in Direct Provision Centres is urgently needed. Fair enough. All our systems need regulated. But the direct provision system needs abolished. It has no legislative basis whatsoever. It was a rushed job by Fianna Fáil back in 1999 without proper accountability and poor institutional oversight. Since 2000 private contractors who run the centres have been paid €900 million of taxpayers money.

There is no need to wait for Immigration, Residence and Protection legislation to be passed in order to put a stop to Direct Provision. Other states deal with Immigrants in a much more humane, efficient and less costly way. There is no reason why this cannot happen here. The people in direct provision have rights. Our delegation met a group, mostly of women, during our visit. All of them want to contribute to Irish society. Instead they are denied the right to work. They are segregated, unable to participate in any meaningful way. We also met local people who work on a voluntary basis to ease the and to assist these 'new Irish' especially the children.

There is no excuse for the wasted creative human potential that is currently unused in direct provision centres. There is no excuse for treating human beings like this. Some of us campaign on behalf of Irish Immigrants in the USA and other countries. If our citizens were being treated the way we treat our immigrants Irish politicians would, rightly be raising a row about it.

All thinking people were horrified at the horrors inflicted on children and women in Industrial Schools, Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries. Politicians from all parties and none expressed outrage. These scandals happened because that's the way the system worked. So too today with direct provision

All of the residents we met at Mosney were dark skinned. Most were from Africa. Could this be why our system treats them in a way which denies their humanity, their rights and the great contribution they and their children could make to our island community?

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