We still manage not to know

Much has been written recently about the forthcoming recommendations of the Working Group on Direct Provision made up of representatives of migrant-support NGOs, established ‘to report to Government on improvements to the protection process, including Direct Provision and supports to asylum seekers’. Media rumours relating to asylum seekers who have been in Direct Provision more than five years include the regularisation of 2,400 asylum seekers (Metro Eireann), the ‘fast tracking’ of 1,500 asylum seekers (the Irish Times) and asylum seekers doing their Leaving Certificate being allowed to pay the same fees as their ‘Irish’ counterparts and not as ‘foreign students’ (RTE).
The Direct Provision system, dubbed ‘inhumane by Minister of State at the Department of Justice Aoghan O’Riordán turns autonomous humans into the negatively valued category of ‘asylum seeker’. Like ‘managing not to know’ about the poor houses, Magdalene Laundries, mother and baby homes, industrial schools and psychiatric hospitals in which one in a hundred ‘Irish’ people were incarcerated for years, Irish society, despite the media reports, ‘’manages not to know’ about Direct Provision. In the Direct Provision centres – run by for-profit companies making millions on the backs of people seeking protection in Ireland – people are forced to share rooms with strangers, families are forced to live in one cramped room, unpalatable food is served at set time often leaving children hungry, and residents are subjected to disciplinary measures by centre managers and staff.
Despite all this, the government has made clear that the Working Group will not help to close the appalling DP system, as demanded by asylum seekers who have staged several protests, but merely to ‘reform’ it. The drip- dripping of leaks about what asylum seekers who have been in the system more than five years ‘might’ gain (why five years? Is being in the system a year, two, three or four years not awful enough?) shows that the government has no intention of letting go of its discretion in ‘handling’ people who it has a duty to protect. As Lucky Khambule, one of the leaders of the recent protests by asylum seekers commented on Facebook: ‘This is really crazy and unfortunate for people to even consider this as an offer, it is not acceptable at all. If it can be done to this number, it can be done for all people in the system, forget the number of years, one year is hard enough if you stay in direct provision. The problem is these decisions are made by those who are in the comfort of their homes and have all the rights you can think of, so they want to keep asylum seekers caged, discriminated and suffering racism for another five years or so… It’s not acceptable to us’.
Asylum seekers and their supporters are clear that our struggle is not about dealing with the state on small favours, but rather about the system itself, that incarcerates people for years at the mercy and discretion of an uncaring state and an uncaring society that ‘manages not to know’ about the direct provision scandal. The only outcome asylum seekers and their supporters will accept is the closure of the DP system, the regularisation of all asylum seekers who would then be allowed to work, and an end to all deportations.