Ireland’s Direct Provision system needs to end!

Ireland’s Direct Provision system needs to end!

Most people agree that Direct Provision (DP) is an inhumane system. It has been termed a “severe violation of human rights” by Emily Hogan from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC). In many ways, the DP system is reminiscent of other shameful episodes in Irish history including Catholic industrial schools, Magdalene laundries, and mother and baby homes. 

Initially established as an interim system that would accommodate people for no more than 6 months, DP has morphed into a system in which people can become trapped for years. Latest figures show that 157 people have spent more than seven years in the system while waiting for their applications to be processed. Currently, there are about 6000 people living in the 39 DP centres across Ireland. Many still don’t have access to their own cooking facilities. People in DP live their lives in limbo, not knowing how long they will be in the system for. According to the Irish Refugee Council (IRC), this often leads to stress and mental health issues.   

DP controls central aspects of people’s lives including their ability to work and study. Until recently, asylum seekers were not allowed to work at all, although this blanket ban was declared unconstitutional last year. However, only about 15% of eligible adults have started work since then. This is because numerous restrictions make the right to work for asylum seekers more of a fantasy than a reality – including their inability to get a driver’s licence. 

Now, DP is making headlines again due to protests over plans to open a new DP centre in the village of Oughterard in County Galway. The recent burial of a transgender woman – Sylva Tukula – in an unmarked grave, without any of her loved ones present, following her death in an all-male centre in Galway city also ignited public fury – and drew attention to the failings of the system. 

IHREC has found that women within the DP system are an extremely vulnerable group and that the system negatively impacts on a wide range of women’s rights. This covers reports of harassment, including verbal abuse and proposition. AkiDwA Ireland also discussed the various human rights abuses women face in a recent submission to the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality. Other women’s rights issues have recently come to light, including women in DP being left without access to sanitary products, and access to proper abortion services due to the remote location of centres. Raising children in the centres also presents many challenges.

More generally, the for-profit nature of Ireland’s DP system has been widely condemned by the human rights community. The IRC has outlined how the accommodation of asylum seekers in remote centres without access to facilities and services exacerbates their marginalisation. It recommended centres should be in locations with easy access to educational, medical, transport, and other services. But these recommendations are largely ignored and communities which house centres are generally not consulted in advance – something which would appear a prerequisite to better integrating asylum seekers into communities. 

Clearly it is time for this system to have a radical overhaul. 

 

Organisations like MASI (the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland) have been working tirelessly to end DP for many years now – and they need our support.  If you want to learn how to help: https://spunout.ie/life/article/how-can-i-help-end-direct-provision1.

 

Photo by Braca Karic on Wikimedia Commons 

 

 

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Migrant crisis in Venezuela

Migrant crisis in Venezuela

It is quite an unbelievable phenomena when one realises that the Venezuela crisis has now become one of the largest economic collapses outside of its war in over four decades. Venezuela is now in the midst of a severe political and economic crisis and ripple effects of which are now felt at an alarming rate across the hemisphere. There is severe food, medicine shortages and crime rates have soared high to beyond imagination. About 10% of the population has already fled the country just in the last four years. 460,000 Venezuelans have claimed asylum from political persecution and violence while around 1.8 million have gained other forms of residency. Thousands of innocents have lost access to employment, education and social services. The United Nations has characterised this situation as one of the largest and fastest mass migration in the history of Latin America and hence is now considered a humanitarian crisis. This oil-rich country is now facing fuel shortage and frequent blackouts too. The government says that the shortage is due to the US sanctions while the opposition is of the opinion that this is due to corruption and mismanagement of the funds.

 

Where do these migrants go?

Approximately 8 out of every 10 migrants choose to be in Latin America or move to the Caribbean. The remaining are migrating to North America or to the EU. Like most cases, these unforeseen circumstances have greatly strained the capability of the host nations to provide basic assistance to the large influx of refugees coming in.

 

Who is in charge?

The political crisis began with two rival politicians Mr Maduro and National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó – claiming to be the country’s legitimate leader. Mr Guaidó declared himself interim president in January, arguing that Mr Maduro’s re-election last year had been “illegitimate”. Guaidó’s presidency has been recognised by more than 50 countries including the US, Canada and most countries in Latin America. Although Maduro retains the loyalty of most of the military and important allies such as Russia and China.

The biggest problem facing Venezuelans in their day-to-day lives is hyperinflation. The annual inflation rate reached 1,300,000% in the 12 months to November 2018, according to a study.

 

How has the international community reacted to this crisis?

Apparently only a fraction of the international assistance is dedicated to this crisis. the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) asked the international community for $738 million to assist migrant-receiving countries in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2019. By early July, international donors had contributed a scant 23.7% of the requested funds.

According to Pilin Leon, a representative for the coalition of Venezuelan migrants at the Organisation of the American State (OAS), “In Venezuela it isn’t a formally declared war, but there is a situation of violence in the streets of all the cities,” she said. “Our situation is one of displacement that deserves legal recognition as a refugee population.”

 

Photo Credits: Federico Rios Escobar for The New York Times (A group of Venezuelan Migrants walking through the Andes climb aboard a truck to Colombia).

 

 

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Media and Migration : The power of imagery and its perception

Media and Migration : The power of imagery and its perception

Media is a huge part of storytelling today. Is it responsible for the history that is being written for future generations to come?

Migration is a topic that has taken centre stage in the media in the last few years. However, few journalists are trained to cover this issue. These are the recent conclusions of media experts who gathered on 18 March in Paris to discuss on Media and Migration, during a thematic debate organized by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).

To make things worse, it is a common knowledge that across all countries , “media have been manipulated by political leaders, too often accepting their outrageous statements,” added Aidan White, Director of the Ethical Journalism Network which has recently published Moving Stories. 

The personal connections between politicians and media houses are known and understood by the journalists and this is taken under consideration when and how they choose to report issues. Three years ago, pictures of a dead child who was a  Syrian refugee and was found on a Turkish beach, were widely circulated and became the highlight of discussions and accumulated criticisms against the media. In contrast, the image of the Mexican refugees (specifically the image of a dead father and his daughter on the banks of a river holding hands)are not given equal prominence in the Western media in comparison.

The entanglement of media and migration expands across all fields, namely political, cultural and even social life. Migration is increasingly digitally tracked and national and international policy-making draws on data on migrant movement, anticipated movement and biometrics to maintain a sense of control over the mobility of humans and things.Social imagery has driven strong emotions and sometimes biased conclusions too.

A team of researchers from the University of Oxford’s Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), the Budapest Business School and the European Journalism Centre based at Maastricht in the Netherlands, has been working to turn the camera around on news production in Europe. The example cited in their research expands one’s understanding about migration and how it is seen across the world. 

On of their interviewees, a Swedish newspaper reporter, is very positive about the role of journalism: “I enjoy great respect. People listen to what I say and want to hear my opinion.

However some, like this UK newspaper journalist, have a different experience: “Even my own friends hate the fact that I work here and think I’m a disgrace, but I’ve just learned to ignore it and I just get on with my work.”

To see migrants as a strong labour force instead of those fleeing persecution and seeking asylum will definitely change the way integration is dealt with in the western countries. The impact of imagery in the media and its impact on migration and policymakers across the world is to be given utmost importance. Images have a lasting impact and are easily able to garner attention. The question to consider is: are we being fed the images we want to see? Or are we being made to see selected images that may impact our perception of the affairs of the world?

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The increase in hunger is due to a number of factors, including rapid population increase, economic instability and income inequality. The UN says the increase jeopardises achieving other sustainable goals including climate action, as this hunger impacts all from farmers to newborn babies.

The increase in hunger is being mainly blamed on the general decrease in the level of aid deployed from richer areas to poorer areas, and specifically to certain African countries. According to Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, humanitarian organisations are currently receiving only 27% of what they need to provide relief to those affected by the hunger crisis. In 2018, this included a 3% decrease in overseas development assistance than in 2017 – including a 4% decrease in African aid, and 8% decrease in humanitarian aid.  

Speaking in the Guardian, Egeland says: “It is a question of priorities. The world’s total military expenditure has increased to a whopping $1.8tn. The cost of closing the humanitarian funding gap and providing people with basic support equals to just about 1% of this”. 

It appears that if political will matched the sense of humanitarian duty, much of this hunger could be easily prevented. 820 million adults and children across the globe would not go hungry tonight. If hunger is eradicated, in tandem would be less illness, increase production in agriculture, and a monumental increase in the quality of life for many. The (perhaps chosen) inability to prevent this hunger is one of the great tragedies of our age.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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Listen to the podcast on the following platforms: iTunes Spotify Google Podcasts Anchor Castbox Breaker Overcast Radio Republic For this mini episode, we asked recent TCD graduates for their advice  on dealing with exam stress. We also talk to Dr. Emer Sheahan, a...

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Female Sea Watch captain becomes a symbol of defiance

Female Sea Watch captain becomes a symbol of defiance

She is being called La Capitana! Carola Rakete, the 31-year-old dreadlocked German captain of the Sea-Watch 3, has been lauded as a heroine by many after she was arrested following her challenge to the “closed port policy” of Il Capitano (aka Italy’s Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini). 

Rakete’s NGO ship was carrying migrants from Libya rescued from an unseaworthy vessel launched by Libya-based human traffickers. Salvini refused to let the ship dock in Lampedusa, one of the main Italian ports of arrival for refugees,  until other European countries agreed to take them. Rakete bravely decided the migrants had waited long enough and decided to dock without permission, saying it was a matter of human rights. Her organisation tweeted: “Its enough. After 16 days following the rescue, #Seawatch 3 enters in port.” Rakete hit an Italian police boat which was blocking her path to the dock which led to her arrest. 

While some deplored her actions – Salvini himself dismissed her as a “rich, white, german woman” who had committed an “act of war” – many were on her side, including UN experts who declared that “rescuing migrants in distress at sea is not a crime” and called on the Italian Authorities to “immediately stop the criminalisation of search and rescue operations”. 

The judge ruled Rackete was fulfilling her duty to rescue persons in distress at sea. She ordered her immediate release and dismissed the charges that Rackete had hit a police boat and ignored police by docking at Lampedusa. However, the judge has since been the target of sexist messages online as well as rape and death threats. 

Rakete remains under investigation in separate criminal proceedings, facing allegations that she endangered the lives of police officers and facilitated illegal migration. She could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Such a conviction would undoubtedly have a chilling effect on migrant rights defenders. 

Almost 700 deaths have been registered in the Mediterranean so far in 2019; nearly half as many as the 1,425 recorded in 2018. Libya is a main departure point for migrants and refugees attempting to reach Europe by boat in a bid to escape war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.  Italy is one of the main EU landing points. Until recently, it accepted nearly all of the refugees and migrants rescued by humanitarian groups at sea. However, when a populist coalition government took power in 2018, they swiftly moved to close Italy’s ports to NGO ships.

The EU ended its own Mediterranean rescue operations in March following disagreements on how those rescued should be divided between EU member states. UN agencies have called for a resumption of the naval patrols and for European countries to stop returning refugees and migrants to Libya where they are at risk due to the ongoing conflict and endure dire conditions. The agencies also said NGO rescue ships play a “crucial role” and must not be penalised for saving lives at sea. 

A tentative agreement, which aims to create a system for the European distribution of rescued people on a voluntary basis, has just been reached. It is hoped this will improve the situation for refugees and migrants, and that the vital EU rescue operations which save countless lives will now resume.  

If this does not happen, the situation for migrants in the Mediterranean will become even more perilous. 

The criminalisation or blocking of humanitarian help for migrants and refugees is an important human rights issue that we should all be concerned about. For five reasons why migration is also a feminist issue see: https:/ www.unfpa.org/news/five-reasons-migration-feminist-issue

 

Photo courtesy of Daniel Arrhakis via Flickr

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Listen to the podcast on the following platforms: iTunes Spotify Google Podcasts Anchor Castbox Breaker Overcast Radio Republic For this mini episode, we asked recent TCD graduates for their advice  on dealing with exam stress. We also talk to Dr. Emer Sheahan, a...

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At least 43 people were killed in a devastating fire that spread through a bag factory in the old quarter of the Indian capital New Delhi, trapping workers who were sleeping inside. Authorities say they do not yet know the cause of the blaze but it has been reported that the site had been operating without the required fire safety clearances.

UNCHR’s impact in war-torn Libya?

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We’ve learnt it from Angela Kelly, Senior Dresser of Queen Elizabeth II of England: The Queen is going fur-free. By “going faux”, The Queen is setting a strong example and sending a powerful message, encouraging an ethical fashion trend that we should all follow. But we have mixed feelings about the lack of coherence between the Country’s statements about fur.

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DRC: fighting Ebola in conflict zones

DRC: fighting Ebola in conflict zones

Ebola, a viral hemorrhagic fever, has ravaged the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 2018. Now, in mid-2019, the situation has officially been declared the second-worst outbreak of Ebola ever record by the World Health Organisation. The Ebola virus is spread through body fluids, attacking the immune system and causing vomiting, diarrhea and extensive bleeding. Drugs and medicine are still experimental, with quarantine being the most frequent effort of prevention. This outbreak is the DRC’s tenth since the 1970s – yet this is the first in an active conflict zone. To date, over 2,500 people in the DRC have been infected by the virus.

This month, the death of the first Ebola patient in a large city proved that the DRC is struggling to contain the crisis. The patient passed away in the city of Goma, over 220 miles from where the outbreak began. Goma is a city of over one million people, and lies geographically close to the border with Rwanda.

It is difficult to bring this situation under control due to the lack of basic services and facilities in much of eastern DRC, where successive conflicts means over 5 million deaths have occurred since 1994. Government authority extends only to urban areas, while militia and armed bands dominate in rural areas, where most of the population live hand to mouth. Reports suggest locals wonder why similar funds have not been invested in preventing other diseases prominent in the area such as malaria. 

The WHO were reluctant to declare the situation an international public health emergency, mainly due to technical reasons, despite its spread to Uganda and Rwanda. On 18 July they rectified this. Health workers in the area have began rolling out measles vaccinations in an attempt to stifle preventable deaths. International coverage and funding to the area could help prevent the spread of this deadly virus, and encourage further research into finding a cure. 

 

Photo: Ebola survivor, UN photo archive

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