A protest march from Salthill to Galway city centre, as part of a wider campaign to end the "horror" and "infantalising" of the Direct Provision system for asylum seekers, is set to take place later this month.
The protest march is being organised by the Galway Anti Racism Network, and will take place on Saturday January 20, starting at 1pm from the Eglinton in Salthill to the Great Western in Eyre Square. The march will be supported by a number of charities, political parties, and community groups. Ahead of that, on Monday 15 at 7pm, GARN will host a public meeting on the issue in the Harbour Hotel. Speakers will include Lucky Khambule from the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, and Vukasin Nedeljkovic, of Asylum Archive.
Ireland's asylum system, known as Direct Provision, has been in existence for almost two decades. As of January 2018, two centres host asylum seekers in Galway city - the Eglinton in Salthill and the Great Western, off Eyre Square.
Direct provision is a system to ensure asylum seekers are housed and provided for, in accordance with international law, and is operated by the Reception and Integration Agency of the Department of Justice and Equality. Under the system, asylum seekers are provided with accommodation on a full-board basis; the costs of all meals, heat, light, laundry, TV, household maintenance, are paid directly by the State; and personal allowances of €19.10 per adult and €9.60 increasing to €15.60 per child per week.
However direct provision, introduced in 2000 was meant only to be a temporary solution, but now in existence for close to 20 years, it has recently come under examination and criticism from politicians and human rights organisations.
The length of time people spend in direct provision has been called "systemic and pernicious" by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. The Government's Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, has called the system "institutionalised poverty". The Irish Refugee Council has reported that young people living in direct provision centres are more prone to depression and suicide.
Joe Loughnane, the chair of GARN, is encouraging people to become involved in the campaign to end the direct provision system. "We want to educate the wider public about the horrors of direct provision," he said. "The asylum system had been hidden away from the wider Galway population. Many people has no idea how much asylum seekers received in State benefits, nor did they realise the isolating and infantalising effects one experiences when living in it. The system has been berated by European and International human rights bodies and a stream of reports have consistently shown how asylum seekers are clinically depressed, demoralised, and institionalised."