Some a sylum seekers are not being hired because of Covid-19 but should not be stigmatised for living in direct provision, an advocate for the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) has said.
Amanda Nyoni, an asylum seeker from Zimbabwe and member of MASI, was speaking at a virtual event hosted by the Democracy in Europe Movement on Thursday.
Ms Nyoni said the pandemic brought direct provision to the fore but it was “heartbreaking” that asylum seekers were labelled as carriers of the virus and in some cases sidelined by employers, in particular in the healthcare sector.
“There are some places that are saying they are not hiring asylum seekers for the very reason of Covid-19,” she said.
Ms Nyoni said nobody “chooses to carry a virus” but asylum seekers were accommodated in places which they could not control.
“Do not stigmatise people because they have been placed in a situation they do not have control of,” she said.
Covid-19, she said, had highlighted how “inhuman” the system was: “I'm sad that so many people had to be affected for a point to be made”.
"We are not looking for comfort. We are just looking to live as normal human beings" - @donnahsvuma told the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality in the @OireachtasNews. #EndDirectProvision pic.twitter.com/wEFu15KQH8— MASI - Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (@masi_asylum) August 26, 2020
The MASI advocate said it was an “utter disappointment” that people remained in the system for between two to 12 years.
“There are people in the centre for 12 years and when you see that you ask yourself ‘is this going to be my story?’ It's really a scary thought and that’s where the mental health aspect comes in,” she said.
Direct provision, Ms Nyoni added, was creating a “broken” generation of children, who were growing up in the system.
Acknowledging the housing crisis, she said homelessness was as much of a problem as the direct provision system and it was "not a competition".
“They are both issues that are very much alive and need to be addressed,” she said.
Th e cost of direct provision for 7,400 asylum seekers was higher than providing social welfare, she said, advocating for an allowance to enable asylum seekers to seek accommodation and integrate into the community.
She said MASI welcomed a commitment from the new government to end direct provision and for engagement with asylum seekers through a focus group as a “good start”