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IT is 10 years since the introduction of institutional accommodation for all asylum seekers to Ireland. “Direct provision” means bed and board of very varied quality and a weekly allowance of €19.10. The amount for children is €9.60.
Outside of the discretionary payments made under the supplementary welfare code no other regular payments are made or received. €19.10, never once increased since 1999 and has been the weekly “income” for men and women, some for years. Think of all the personal and social necessities a man, woman or child needs per week.
Prohibited from working and mainstream education some people, in particular parents, have been pushed into working in the black market: low-paid, dangerous and illegal work. This has meant compromising their bodies, their minds and their health. And then, when they are found out, they are stripped of even the €19.10. For 10 years, stories of asylum seekers’ protests about accommodation and welfare have played second fiddle to rumours of misuse (cars/phones/buggies) of state funds. We know which got the most attention but now, post the Ryan and Murphy reports, which is more believable? Our sorry history of institutional “care” has been found out.
Residents of previous regimes ask who outside the institutions knew about their experiences? However, nobody responsible in Ireland can say they haven’t known about direct provision, and nobody could say they were unaware of the measly €19.10.
The sad and sorry fact, however, is that all of us who have sought to influence public and political opinion on this gross injustice have failed. That failure feels shameful; the lived experience of the failure is much, much worse.
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