Picture: KRAC committee members, Cork, left to right: Lucky Khambule, Hassan Ally, David and Theresa Obi | Photo credit: Paula Geraghty
Sive Bresnihan in #Focus95 looks at how asylum seekers are making their voices heard through nationwide protests.
In August of this year, 4 asylum seekers in a remote men’s only hostel outside of Foynes, Co. Limerick went on hunger strike. After years of direct provision and no word on their asylum claims (one of them had been in the system for 14 years), they said that they could simply ‘take no more’. The Foynes protest, which also involved locking staff and management out of the building, was quickly diffused by the authorities but asylum seeker-led protests in other centres followed and, in a matter of weeks, altered the course of the direct provision debate.
On September 3rd residents in Lisseywollen, Athlone announced that they were refusing food and, on Saturday, locked staff out of the centre and marched to town armed with messages for the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) and service provider ARAMARK. Residents of Montague, Port Laoise did the very same thing the following Monday. When a delegation from RIA arrived to hear their grievances the first thing they asked was: ‘If we hadn’t organised our action when would you have come to address our concerns?’
On September 15th the lengthiest of the protests began in the Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre in Cork. The protest (which took the form of an extended lock out) lasted for 10 days during which time residents made a point of inviting people in. Journalists circulated through the space, friends came with food and music, and members of the public stopped by. This allowed for new kinds of interactions, something which the residents felt deeply. ‘What we were doing was real integration’ said one of the residents. ‘Nothing will feel the same again’. Organised as KRAC (Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre), residents suspended their lock out on Wednesday September 24th after securing concessions from management. That Friday they gathered up banners and supporters and marched triumphantly through Cork city, inviting everybody back to the Center afterwards for a party.
The message from the protesters has been unequivocal and that is that no amount of reform can fix the system of direct provision. Kinsale Road and Montague along with Birchwood and Atlantic House (who began their protests in October) have been calling for an end to the system, namely: the closure of all direct provision centers, stopping all deportations (a daily torment for many people in the system and a source of unending physical and emotional trauma for individuals and their families), residency for those currently in the system and for asylum seekers in the future to have the right to work and to study.
On its side, the government has established a working group on direct provision.
The group’s Terms of Reference provide for the most marginal of reform however and there is no seat at the table for asylum seekers. Protesters appear undeterred and poised for more action.
Member of KRAC said:
‘Let us all sing one song in one voice and make as much noise as we can to disrupt any effort that is designed to keep or to reform this inhumane system. Let us believe in our own abilities and capabilities in fighting together and bury our differences to fight for a common goal. We owe it to our children to get into this battle and say enough is enough’.
Committees are now up and running in these centers and welcome contact and support from the public There are also public meetings, social gatherings and street actions on DP in the pipeline. For more details contact Anti Racism Network Ireland on their Facebook page.