Kafka Revisited. Time to End the Scandal of Direct Provision in Ireland.

Disgraceful treatment of asylum seekers in Ireland

Did I ever in my most fevered dreams imagine that I might agree with Rónán Mullen about anything?  And yet, here we are on the same side, united in our detestation for the despicable holding tanks into which we drop those who throw themselves on our mercy.

The Direct Provision system is an echo of the vile, hard-hearted attitudes that pervaded official Ireland from the foundation of the state right up to the present day.  Attitudes that in the past were used to crush and degrade Irish citizens now find new victims in the shape of desperate people fleeing war, oppression and intolerance.

It hasn’t gone away, you know.  Not too long ago, the same cold officiousness forced ninety-seven terrified women to assemble in one town before revealing to them whether or not they had breast cancer.  That was done for administrative convenience and it happened in Ireland seven years ago.

This is the same outlook that generations of public officials have displayed.  This is the attitude that gave us the industrial school scandal, the Magdalene laundry disgrace and now the Direct Provision shame.

Such a narrow, unthinking bureaucratic mindset has bedevilled Ireland since the start and it’s no accident, since in this country, we seem to promote the kind of limited, suspicious-minded unimaginative jobsworths that carry out orders and implement policy without regard to humanity, their own or that of others.  The Dog-Licence People are still in control and the Dog-Licence People care nothing for a child trapped in a soulless hostel without recourse to proper educational facilities or  social contact.  Such people care nothing for those who lose their minds in the Kafka-like netherworld that is the Irish asylum system, a place where nobody tells you anything, where you never know how long you’ll have to be in this limbo, where you can’t find out how your case is doing, how far it’s progressed or who is dealing with it.

You can’t set up a home for your children, you can’t work, you have to eat whatever slop is served up to you by the grasping sub-contractor who runs your containment tank, and if you complain you’re punished by being transferred without notice to another city, disrupting whatever tenuous relationships you might have cobbled together.  You can’t even work to supplement the miserable €19 they hand you once a week.  You have no dignity and no hope because this system is specifically designed to crush you, pour encourager les autres.

Is it any wonder that the rate of mental illness in these places is so high?

Can it really take eight, nine or ten years to assess an application for asylum?  Is that not a monument to incompetence on a spectacular scale? Alternatively, is it not evidence of a nasty, vindictive mindset, bent on deterring those who have the temerity to seek help from the most smug and self-righteous nation on earth?  How proud we are of our donations to worthy causes across the globe.  Even when our economy was in meltdown, we still donated the guts of a billion euros every year to foreign aid, but somehow we can’t find it in our hearts to accommodate those who seek shelter in a humane, decent and respectful manner while we process their applications.

We can’t manage to do the paperwork, sort out who the genuine cases are, identify the economic migrants, isolate any criminals and give comfort to those who have been genuinely oppressed and who now find a new oppression here in this Christian little country.

Instead, we throw the whole lot into a holding centre — the genuinely oppressed, the economic migrants and the criminals.  We force young children to live in the same place as people who may well be abusers, because we don’t bother to find out.   We prefer to let them rot in these disgusting conditions where nobody benefits except the owners of the buildings, who grow fat on the misery of those who must live there.

And while we’re at it, let’s not be so quick to dismiss the economic migrants as scammers, while we walk around in the cheap clothes they and their families made in Bangla Deshi sweatshops, while we enjoy the technology made possible by the minerals ruthlessly exploited in Africa for the benefit of Europeans, while we pop the question to our beloved and whip out a fancy ring with a big sparkling blood diamond.

Let’s look at ourselves before pointing fingers.

It’s always been a great Irish cop-out to blame the system, but of course, the fault lies with flesh-and-blood people who don’t care what becomes of those they treat with Kafka-like indifference.  They have names, these Dog-Licence People.  Tommy and Mike, Jim, David.  Katie, Sarah, Margaret and Sinead.  They have homes just like you and me.   They have money problems like us.  They go to the same matches as us, they wear the jerseys and they put their little ones on their shoulders for a better view just like you and me.  But somehow, when it comes to implementing public policy, they become callous automatons.

Of course, since this is Ireland, there are always people who get rich out of it.  Before the Asylum Appeals Tribunal was set up, there was a panel of assessors who were paid handsomely for their services.  One of these individuals never approved a single appeal but was more than happy to collect the substantial fee for being an impartial judge in the cases of desperate and frightened refugees.  This is also a flesh-and-blood human being who presumably has children and possibly grandchildren.

What’s lacking here?

Do I really need to tell anyone?

Of course not.  For all our vaunted generosity, what we seem to be missing is that essential organ of compassion: a heart.

Simon Coveney has spoken of the need for a conversation on the reasons why asylum seekers are protesting, as if this all comes as a huge surprise to him.  I’d imagine that Simon Coveney, well-brought-up, privileged, decent, urbane individual that he is, would never personally treat anyone the way people in Direct Provision are handled, but his shock seems a little on the faux side, unless this government minister doesn’t possess a radio, hasn’t read a single newspaper or watched a single news report on tv for a decade or more.  And if that’s the case, shouldn’t we be looking for better-informed government ministers?

It’s all guff, of course, which is why I find myself in bed with Rónán Mullen, something few if any can boast.  I’m not sure which of us is more uncomfortable but I hope he’s not a duvet-stealer.

Simon Coveney and his boss Enda Kenny – a man more than ready to shed a tear for injustice when the occasion suits – are well aware of this problem and they know full well how to fix it, so instead of having a national conversation about anything they should just go ahead and do precisely that.

Fix it.


15 thoughts on “Kafka Revisited. Time to End the Scandal of Direct Provision in Ireland.

  1. I’m really conflicted by this situation, of course having people in a kind of prison for 9 or 10 years is not anything a reasonable person would wish for but on the other hand if word got out, and it certainly would, that we were offering the right to work and dole and whatever else, then would the amount of Applicants increase ?

    Why is it that a process can take this long ? Is it incompetence ? Can it take years to get supporting documents ? I suppose that every story has to be verified so only people in genuine danger can be looked after. That lady, think her name was Pamela, and her story about FGM did damage to genuine Applicants as she was getting a lot of support from people in her locality only for them to be let down when the rest of the story came out. Are ordinary local people now afraid to get involved in case this happens again ?

    As I said, I don’t have a definite view one way or the other but some political leader needs to stand up and make a decision one way or the other. I’m not holding my breath for that !

  2. The Official Mindset in Ireland since independence in 1922 is a legitimate target for righteous vituperative bombardment. The official mindset has constantly shown itself to be morally vapid and unresponsive to public needs. The paper-pushers in the public service have spent thirty years on average slowly climbing the career ladders moving from one dull office to another, doing nothing significant before reaching retirement age and collecting their state pensions.What smugness, what non-productivity, what enormous expense on the public purse for such dismal national performance.

  3. Pamela Izevbekhai. Who would not le to get a better life for their children? That was a classic example of a case where the state delayed so long, the children were Irish in every way, and then had to go to Nigeria where they became cultural aliens.

  4. This really upset me.. The thoughts of anyone being in bed with Rónán Mullen is very distressing.

    Seriously though, it is a disgrace.
    How much have these centres made in profits since all this started, I wonder?
    I believe that’s the reason as to why these people are in these centres for so long.
    There were big profits to be made with the Magdalene laundries too.

  5. What about this , phase out the awful centres and have NGOs/ambassadors or Charities who are on the ground in those countries make informed selections and take applications out there for genuine asylum seekers . Then cap the amount taken in with consideration to our population and moral obligation . Reinvest the money spent on the centres on supports for getting genuine refugees on their feet and involved in society .

  6. One problem I can think of is that when you’re running from murderers you might not be able to queue up at an office marked “Escape from murder”

  7. Point taken Bock but I wonder about claiming escape from murder as a reason for coming to Ireland .Last time I checked stena sealink and ryanair had cut their routes to Central Africa. I don’t think its possible to flee directly to Ireland without first passing through some safe european countries with similar or better asylum systems than our own .If escape from murder was a priority the surely you would settle in the first civilised European country you landed in and not continue on a quest to get to an Island on the furthermost North west edge of the continent unless of course your family were already here .

  8. There are many possible reasons why a person fleeing persecution would choose to apply for asylum in one country rather than another.

    That’s why we need a system that deals with such applications expeditiously instead of forcing people to remain in disgraceful conditions for a decade or more without coming to a decision on their case.

  9. We are great at the business of pointing out that someone ought to do something about matters we view as wrong.
    We are a great nation in that regard.
    Unfortunately we also have a government that does exactly as we do.

  10. I see that the arch-bigot Cardinal Timothy Dolan is somewhat to the left of iap337, having acknowledged that even by his extremely intolerant standards there is nothing wrong with being gay.

    According to the cardinal,

    people with same-sex attraction are God’s children, deserving dignity and respect, never to be treated with discrimination or injustice

  11. Bock,

    In the published statement above, I can’t see where Cardinal Dolan says that there is nothing wrong with same-sex attraction. Could you please point it out to me.

    I would agree with the statement otherwise.

  12. Bock,

    I have read the statement in its entirety and nowhere does Cardinal Dolan endorse homosexuality.
    You won’t point it out to me because it just is not there.

    However, in my opinion, accepting to be Grand Marshal for the parade was an error that he may well regret yet.

    (Just of academic interest, what has this got to do with Kafka revisited?).

  13. Iap377- physic extraordinaire.
    He sees not only into the mind of an anthropomorphic God, but also knows what people will regret at a later date.

    You don’t seem to regret your bigotry Iap, so I wouldn’t worry about what anyone else will regret.

    Back to Deuteronomy with you.

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