In the past the target of state neglect and abuse included vulnerable children, women in so-called ‘inappropriate’ pregnancies and women in labour; this time, state misconduct is turned towards asylum seekers. What is taking place in these accommodation centres is the warehousing of people, often over a long number of years, in overcrowded conditions where dignity, privacy and health are all either non-existent or grossly compromised. Children are born into these conditions and are living their lives in forced isolation from Irish society. Unaccompanied young people are being housed in them, despite the fact that the Health Service Executive has responsibility for these children under the Childcare Act 1991. Adults are thrown together and often left for years to languish in conditions where they are constantly monitored; they share showers, toilets, and suffer from depression from the constant boredom and surveillance that characterises their lives. These stories have been told to and are recorded by the Daíl: no member of our parliament can now claim not to be aware of the conditions of enforced inhumanity that adults and children are kept in under the Direct Provision system.
These shameful doings are being undertaken in the name of the citizens of Ireland, under the auspices of the Department of Justice and Equality and its Reception and Integration Agency. They are operationalised by local management companies, who take significant millions in profit from these disgraceful undertakings. Minister O’Riordáin’s acknowledgement of the inhumanity of the Direct Provision system, and Minister Fitzgerald’s expressed concern for same, lack any urgency to immediately address the abuse that is taking place. If their agenda is followed, children and adults in Direct Provision will remain in these inhumane conditions for at least another year, hardly reflecting any empathy or understanding of the gravity of the consequences of living in these inhumane conditions.
Through their recent and growing protests, the residents have, and are, asking for our help in ending this brutal system. Through their courage, they have made visible this ongoing horror-story, so that we can now see at first hand the extent of the inhumanity perpetrated upon them. In this latest configuration of state abuse, none of us can now claim ignorance. There is only one way to address this: end Direct Provision, stop deportations and give people access to work. We demand that our government do this now.