Challenge the violence of Ireland’s asylum regime
2017-02-01 16:26:44 -
Anne Mulhall

New Year’s Eve is a time for new beginnings and new hope, but for people seeking asylum in Ireland, this year it marked the beginning of a disturbing new phase in Ireland’s asylum and deportation regime. 

The last day of 2016 saw the full implementation of the International Protection Act, legislation that was steamrolled through the Dáil the year before and that will determine the fate of people seeking asylum in this country now and for the future.

The Anti-Racism Network held a public meeting last month where Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (Masi) activist Lucky Khambule, immigration lawyer Wendy Lyon and Sinn Féin senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh spoke about the consequences of the new legislation for people in the asylum system. As the speakers at the ‘Protection Racket’ event made clear, the main purpose of this new legislation is to decrease the numbers of people seeking asylum in Ireland, and increase the numbers of refusals.

The act brings into effect the single application procedure for refugee status, subsidiary protection and, effectively, leave to remain. Claims that this ‘streamlined’ process will be more ‘efficient’ must be met with scepticism. The single procedure will not magically resolve the deep dysfunction embedded in this State’s legal asylum apparatus, manifested in the 1,000-plus backlog of ‘cases’ (that is, people living for years in the DP holding pens under the shadow of deportation). 

Without even minimal attempts to provide adequate and early legal advice, never mind trained interpreters to people seeking asylum, and with even less transparency about the processes of decision-making at play under the new legislation, the single procedure is likely to result in dangerous, rushed decisions and quicker, more frequent deportations.

Such an accelerated deportation machine is what the Department of Justice is aiming for. Given the paralysis within the asylum system, this is in fact the only way it can make good its claims that all applications will be decided on within six to 12 months under the new procedure. We have been here before with the Department’s six-month promises. 

Direct provision itself was first implemented in 2000 with promises that it was a ‘temporary measure’ and would last no longer than six months. Almost 17 years later, the slow violence of DP remains in place; outsourced ‘service providers’ are still profiting handsomely from their investment in human misery.

The persistent, courageous resistance of asylum seekers themselves against their inhuman treatment within the direct provision and deportation systems has resulted in a growing call for DP to be dismantled, not ‘reformed’. 

The single procedure is repeatedly spun by the current and previous Governments as effecting ‘reform’ of DP as a kind of by-product. As the new procedure will, we are told, be more efficient, the length of time people are warehoused in the DP ghettoes will be shorter. This has become one of the Government’s key arguments for leaving DP in place. 

The shameless spin demonstrates the indifference of the Government and the Department of Justice to the suffering and abuse they are responsible for.

There are many other ways in which the International Protection Act is already affecting people arriving at the Irish border. The act increases the grounds on which immigration officials can refuse people at the point of entry, preventing them from exercising their right to claim asylum, and increases powers of detention, allowing for people to be detained indefinitely. 

The act also seeks to restrict entry to the State by impeding the right of people granted their status to family reunification. This is being done overtly, by restricting family reunification to spouses and children under 18, and more covertly through imposing deadlines on the process that are impossible for most people to meet, as Lucky Khambule outlined at the ARN meeting. 

These are just a few of the new powers and restrictions that the new legislation has introduced. There are many more.

For many Irish people, the death-defined EU borders seem distant from these shores, because the reality of the border regime does not impinge on their lives. For people who come up against the State’s racist immigration and asylum machine, the reality is that those borders are part of daily existence in this country. 

The International Protection Act extends and accelerates this routine violence and injustice that people seeking asylum in this country endure. It must be challenged and resisted from the ground up.

Anne Mulhall is a member of ARN (Anti-Racism Network Ireland). Follow ARN on Facebook (@arnireland) or email for updates on events and campaigns
TAGS : Anne Mulhall Ireland Asylum The Anti-Racism Network
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