Racism and other issues affecting asylum seekers in Ireland

Akidwa – the migrant led service for women – has just published a hugely enlightening report on the experience of women in the asylum system.  It’s contents are damning to the Reception & Integration service for asylum seekers in Ireland.  This report should be read by all and in particular by those in a position to influence change. Researchers surveyed and interview 121 women in 10 regions of Ireland on their experience of seeking a asylum.  We publish exctracts below, but the full report is on www.akidwa.ie ‘ Am only saying it now’.As of December 2009, there were 6,482 people living in direct provision accommodation awaiting decisions on their asylum, protection and leave to remain cases. Of this number, there were 1,859 women and 987 girls, with 50 per cent of all residents in direct provision being families. Over half of all residents have lived in centres for two years or more, and almost a third have lived in centres for three years or more, although when the system was introduced then Minister for Justice John O’ Donoghoe said that people would be accommodated in such facillities for no longer than 6months.  ‘At least as a prisoner you know when you are getting out – not when you are an asylum seeker.’Full report is available on www.akidwa.ieBelow are some comments from the women surveyed:  ‘Living in direct provision puts us at a mental health risk. It’s upsetting to hear about deportations … we feel isolated, depressed and sad. It’s upsetting when you see things happening to your friends.’ Mothers were also worried about how discrimination may make their children feel, with women from one region saying that they felt some children in town did not want to play with their children because they were asylum seekers, and that living in the centre labelled the children. Some mothers related that their children saw the ‘difference between Irish born and African born’ and that Irish born children had more rights.Mothers were worried about how this would affect their children’s sense of self worth.‘You really feel trapped in the hostel. Then there are cameras everywhere – you feel like you are watched 24 hours – and yet, when an incident takes place, they say they can’t trace [it].’  ‘When you have a problem with someone, you don’t have the space to get away from [the] problem. Little things get blown out of proportion. It’s like mental torture.’‘We do not have any say, and have to follow rules here, even when our rights are taken. I was talking to one Irish person, who said to me, “An Irish person can’t live this kind of life even for a day. You people are very brave.” We are treated so badly here.’At one centre, the women said that at mealtimes, some staff servers ‘treat you like dogs’ and that a resident asking for a second helping might not be well received, with comments from servers such as, ‘How many are you taking for?’ Women at this centre said that they do not ask for anything outside of that which is given to them. One woman said that they are given food like one would ‘give a dog in their country – it [is] thrown to your face’.‘The management have no respect for us at all, and they always show you they are in power. If you take food back that is raw, or question anything, then you are threatened with transfer. You are seen as a troublemaker. You can hardly challenge anything, due to fear of jeopardising your case.’ ‘You fear to speak or say anything since you are threatened with transfer every time you question or challenge. Gardaí [have] been called many times when residents stand up for their rights. Some people have been transferred within a day or two. You are always in fear of the consequences, with a feeling of lack of control, hope or drive in your life.’One woman said that she had seen her lawyer only once. Another said that her solicitor did not even know what she looked like, much less anything else about her case. Another woman spoke of her lawyer being unavailable on the day of her hearing. Her substitute lawyer did not bring her file, nor appeared to have read it prior to the hearing. She gave the lawyer her own copy of her case file, which she said the lawyer glanced at briefly before heading into court. Women felt that a negative answer in the first instance, regardless of the reason for refusal, had the power to create doubt as to whether or not they would be believed with officials thereafter.Women are been harassed here every day. The other day, a man in a car followed me and started shouting, “Have sex with me!” It doesn’t matter – they think everyone black here is an asylum seeker and that they can harass us. They know we live on €19.10. Full report on ‘ Am only saying this now’ www.akidwa.ie

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