Two decades on from the introduction of Direct Provision and the ongoing deportation of asylum seekers, Memet Uludag argues why this inhumane system should be abolished once and for all.
The Irish Times is running a series of pieces on the Direct Provision System and related issues.1Yet again, direct provision has become national debate in Ireland over the past few months. This is not the first time, but this time round we witness racist voices getting increasingly louder. Politicians and some small but very active groups are trying to stir hate and racism. One of their main targets are the people in direct provision system, the asylum seekers.
I am pleased to see another article in the Irish Times2focusing on deportations and presenting some arguments. Whether one agrees with all of it or not, is not important. It is about time we talk about deportations and understand the wider asylum process including the reality of people being removed from the state.
We don’t hear about deportations. When they happen, they happen in silence. It is a process that we cannot witness. We hardly hear what happens to people after being deported. The harsh realities and personal stories of people in direct provision are more visible than ever—and rightly so—but deportees are different. In most of the cases they are gone and forgotten as if they never walked the streets of this country and as if they had no friends and loved ones here.
Deportations are the ‘death penalty’ of asylum systems. Once ordered and executed there is no comeback, even if the state was wrong and acted on false judgement. For the deportee the future becomes very bleak. In many cases lives are never repaired and people are thrown right back into the very same dangers and misery they tried to escape from.
Deportation of asylum seekers is a cruel and very traumatic process. The silence and secrecy of the process is part of this cruelty. For families and children, the effects of being deported can be devastating.
European countries are deporting asylum seekers to war zones such as Afghanistan, Iraq and other places.
We simply cannot look at deportations from a legalistic point of view and categorise people as ‘failed asylum seekers’ and therefore call them people to be deported. Furthermore, deportations are not a matter of numbers and statistical reports and averages etc. Asylum seekers have many different and unique personal circumstances. We cannot understand deportations by legalism and numbers games. Nor should we reduce deportation to that. There is more, a lot more, to human stories and to people’s lives than whether they can prove if their asylum claims are true or false.
Annually, the actual number of deportations is a small percentage of the total number of deportation orders issued but this can’t be an argument to ignore deportations. The reality is that deportation orders and the execution of these orders are on the increase.
Real vs Fake Asylum Claims
Seeking asylum is a traumatising personal response to political, social and economic events beyond the control of the individual.
Those who simply look at people as ‘real’ and ‘fake’ asylum seekers most likely don’t understand the realities of how to survive (or not) as an LGBTQ person in Georgia, or a regime opponent in Syria, or an environmentalist in Nigeria, or a trade unionist in Brazil, or a feminist in Iran, or a socialist in Egypt… the list can go on forever. You don’t have to be a known figure or a leader of a struggle to be oppressed and your life be at risk. Today, millions of ordinary people are facing persecution of many forms. Millions of people face horrific push factors. Millions of them endure lifelong miseries. We only saw a tiny fraction of their stories and struggles. The rest are ignored by the global rulers and the mainstream media. A small percentage of these people flee because they have no other option left. They become asylum seekers.
How do you prove how much you hurt inside, or how scared you are, or how much you have lost? Is there a formula to use that will make one a ‘real’ asylum seeker?
Economic Migrants, Not Asylum Seekers
The narrative of ‘economic migrant, not real refugee’ is used to dismiss asylum seekers and justify their deportations.
Economic poverty and political-personal oppression go hand in hand. Today, millions of people in Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, and Chile are protesting against austerity, unemployment, economic hardship, and corruption; lack of public services and indeed oppression and torture. One of the potential consequences of their protests is—as we see it very clearly—a very heavy handed state response of arrests, torture, imprisonments and even death. Many protesters may face long misery if they fail to win their struggle.
Separating people’s economic hardship from their oppression is a false engagement with asylum discussions. People’s lives are not simply divided by a clear line that divides economic conditions and social/political conditions. In many countries where LGBTQ people are oppressed their sexuality is banned and they also suffer extreme poverty. Not seeing this direct link is being indifferent to the realities asylum seekers have in their lives.
It is very difficult for many asylum seekers to prove political oppression they face or the risk of death, torture; lack of human rights, police brutality, lack freedom etc. The states inflicting these horrors upon their people don’t issue a receipt for their ‘services’ or don’t give victims a signed paper as a proof of the pain inflicted.
Asylum seekers have to convince the Irish state that they have a reason to stay here. And this process can be as painful as the pain some people have escaped from.3
Seeking asylum, going through the very (1) legalistic (2) complex (3) non-transparent (4) daunting process of and being forced into direct provision system is a terrifying experience. The thought of deportations only adds to this ordeal.
As reported repeatedly, the asylum approval rates in Ireland is one of the lowest in the EU-28. The Irish Independent reported in 2016 that “Ireland refuses asylum to 90pc of applicants”.4
Processing asylum claims is not a straightforward and simply legalistic process and therefore it can’t simply have a legalistic outcome such as deportation or not. As the Irish Refugee Council Report “Difficult to Believe” stated,
“Demonstrating credibility is one of the most difficult tasks faced by an asylum applicant. These difficulties are particularly acute in the refugee context given that, as the Hon Justice Thomas Cooke has noted, many asylum seekers do not have the opportunity to gather material evidence to support their claims. UNHCR guidelines explicitly recognise this challenge that arises both for asylum applicants and for asylum adjudicators.”5
The low acceptance rate in Ireland has led some to question the way in which the Irish system operates and to the assertion that there is a “culture of disbelief” amongst decision makers.
In 2014, a doctor applied for asylum in Ireland had his request rejected because a member of the decision-making body “didn’t like him”. The finding was made in an extraordinary ruling in the High Court by Mrs Justice Maureen Harding Clark.6
The Direct Provision System (DPS) is the main feature of a legally complex, bureaucratically and politically non-transparent, commercially profit and private business driven, asylum system in Ireland. At its core, it is inhumane and institutionally racist
To understand the DPS we need to understand the role it is playing in Ireland’s asylum process. The DPS, introduced as a temporary ‘measure’ in 1999, provided the best cover for Irish governments over the past 17 years, not only to continue with their unwelcoming asylum polices, but also to get away with the unforgivable inhumanity of the official state response to asylum seekers.
In fact, the entire asylum system is based on simple logic—keeping the asylum seekers out. If possible, out of Ireland altogether, but, if that fails, out of sight and out of public and social life, in other words, out of minds.
It is designed to ensure the asylum seeker does not sink roots in this country while the state considers various options about their lives—the least likely being granting them refugee status—because the state knows that people with roots are much harder to deport. Their friends and, crucially, their workmates, other parents in their children’s schools etc. are likely to defend them should they be deported. The DPS should be examined and understood within this context.7
End The Direct Provision System Now! Stop Deportations!
Direct Provision is a system of inequality and oppression. It is racist by nature. The longer it exists the worse the problems are getting. Its damage to many people’s lives is already beyond repair. It has hurt enough people and it must be ended to be replaced with a system that gives the asylum seekers the right to work, housing and other rights.
All asylum seekers in the DPS should be given full entitlement to residency, right to work and citizenship. Normalising their lives by granting basic rights must be the first step.
Ireland must declare an end to deportations. The overall refugee application process must be changed and a humanitarian, transparent and care-oriented system should be put in place.
Ireland has the capacity, capability and the means to look after these suffering people. What is missing is the political will of the rulers.
Asylum seekers coming to Ireland and other European countries do so out of necessity and not choice. These necessities arise from the current dominant economic and political system in the world. In this system, for the rich to go around the world in pursuit of more profits and investment opportunities, to settle in any country they want and to pick and choose where they want to pay their taxes (or not) is presented as a ‘natural right’ of capital. But for asylum seekers and refugees to seek protection and safety, and migrants to follow jobs across borders, is always defined as a problem. Hence the asylum seekers in Ireland are firstly described as a problem and only then as human beings. The State sees itself as a victim having to deal with this problem. In fact, it is the opposite; the DPS is the problem and asylum seekers are the victims.
- Direct provision: The controversial system turns 20, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/direct-provision-the-controversial-system-turns-20-1.4081833, Sorcha Pollak, Mark Hilliard
Reality of deportation: ‘I plead with my life… to be allowed to remain’ https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/reality-of-deportation-i-plead-with-my-life-to-be-allowed-to-remain-1.4088615, Sorcha Pollak
Verifying refugees’ stories: why is it so difficult? https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/nov/17/verifying-refugees-stories-why-is-it-so-difficult , Helen Nianias
 Ireland refuses asylum to 90pc of applicants, https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/ireland-refuses-asylum-to-90pc-of-applicants-35229842.html, Jim Cusack
- Difficult to Believe, https://www.irishrefugeecouncil.ie/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Difficult-to-Believe-The-assessment-of-asylum-claims-in-Ireland.pdf
How a doctor had his asylum request rejected because someone ‘didn’t like him’, https://www.thejournal.ie/refugee-appeal-courts-1321448-Feb2014/
- Direct Provision – An Indictment http://www.irishmarxistreview.net/index.php/imr/article/view/200/194, Memet Uludag