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Organisers overwhelmed by the reaction to the Living in Limbo: raising awareness of direct provision in Galway event. Consortium welcomes the pledge from Galway City Council to keep the needs of asylum seekers on their agenda.
Over 150 people – asylum seekers, local and national politicians and Irish people expressing their disgust at the policy – attended the event which was chaired by Anastasia Crickley vice president of United Nations CERD. Commenting on the event Ms Crickley stated. ‘It was very important to use the event in Galway to focus attention nationally on the issue of direct provision. At the same time, in the short term agencies, services and organisations need to be doing much more to make the lives of those in direct provision more bearable.’
Sur Conlan, CEO of The Irish Refugee Council (IRC) said it is seriously concerned about the welfare of three young people from asylum seeking families in direct provision hostels who are presenting with thoughts of suicide because of their living conditions. She called on new Minister for Justice Francis Fitzgerald to meet the parents of the three children, aged between 11 and 17, as a “priority”. ‘The three children — one boy and two girls — are from three separate families, living in two direct provision hostels, one of which is in Galway’, Ms Conlan said.
A number of adults spoke about the harsh reality of their lives as asylum seekers living in direct provision. A group of children living in one of the hostels were filmed the evening before so their voices could also be heard.
Ann Irwin, Co-ordinator of Galway City Community Forum, one of the organising partners, said that it was a very moving event, ‘The testimonials of the women, men and particularly children and young people, were powerful. Not one of the people in that room remained unmoved by the reality of the inhumane policy that is direct provision. The reality that was outlined including enforced idleness, inability to work, and inability to access education was powerful.’
She continued, ‘Even more powerful were the pleas of the children to allow them to live like all their peers and friends. One young girls about to sit her Leaving Cert broke down in tears. She wants to attend university to study nursing but knows that her parents would never be able to afford the fees required as the children of asylum seekers are not eligible for grants and have to pay fees at the oversea student rate.’
Joe O’Neill, deputy Galway City Manager said that a city cannot declare itself successful unless it is inclusive. He supported the call to end direct provision but also said that in the short term organisations and agencies need to be supporting those living in the system.
Commenting on the event, Siphathisiwe Moyo, a resident of the Eglinton hostel and one of the event organisers stated, ‘This was a very important event for my community but we need to view it as starting point’.
Ray Storan of the Friends of Asylum Seekers group called on the City Council to bring together a high level group to address the issues identified. He said, ‘We know that it is not within the gift of local politicians or Galway City Council to end the inhumane policy that is direct provision. However, we welcome the comments made by Joe O’Neill deputy City Manager (deputising for the City Manager who was ill) and we call on him to work with the Galway Integration Consortium to bring together a group of CEOs and Directors of agencies and organisations in Galway city to put together a strategy to address the issues identified today. We can no longer say that we don’t know, that we are not aware. We need to act.’
A letter of congratulations to the new Minister for Justice Mrs Frances Fitzgerald was circulated during the event and signed by most of the participants, The letter called on the Minister to draw a line under Direct Provision, which “creates an institutionalised way of living, breaks the human spirit, leads to deep depression, lowers self-confidence, prohibits work and creates a system of imposed idleness, it segregates people, deprives families of privacy and normal family life. Shamefully it leaves people waiting in a limbo situation for three, four, five, six and up to twelve years in some cases to get their legal status sorted”. The Minister was asked “to consider ‘an amnesty type solution” for those who have waited so long and endured direct provision, with all its challenges, for more than four to five years”. The letter also called on the Minister not to use direct provision as a “pull back factor”, in other words, a deterrent for those who might now or in the future seek asylum in Ireland.
The event featured a short excerpt from the work of artist Ceara Conway. Using voice, song and performance, her project, Making Visible, highlights and ”makes visible” aspects of the lives of women living within Direct Provision in Galway City. Commenting on the event she stated. ” Socially engaged art has the capacity to draw people’s attention to issues such as the Direct Provision. Through a communal ritual/gathering such as Making Visible, the public is invited to witness, to be moved and motivated. We now need to build on this’
The Mayor of Galway, Councillor Padraig Conneely accepted a cake symbolising Galway made by Bisola Akanni, a talented cake designer and an asylum seeker living in Galway in direct provision for the past six years.