The death a couple of weeks ago of Immanuel Marcel Landa, an elderly Congolese man, in Mosney, the 49th person to die in the direct provision system since 2000, focused my mind, yet again, on the invisible plight of Ireland’s asylum seekers. Ireland’s impetus to control asylum seekers rarely links the conflict zones which produce asylum seekers with their human consequences. Instead, the racial state demonises asylum seekers, stems their flow, often preventing them from landing to present their applications, all in order to regain control.
Asylum applications in Ireland have been going down ever since their peak in 2002 at 11,634; the number of applications received in 2011, 1,250, represented a 28% decrease on the corresponding figure of 1,939 in 2010. In 2012 (by June) only 458 asylum applications were made. The government seems delighted with the decrease in asylum applications. In 2010 Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern commended ‘the ongoing work within INIS, including the asylum agencies, to combat abuse while at the same time ensuring fairness and improving the effectiveness and efficiency of procedures in this area’. At 1.5% at first instance and 6% on appeal, Ireland is distinguished by the lowest acceptance rate in the EU, where the average is 27%.
The fact that 6,740 asylum seekers still live in 43 direct provision hostels in appalling conditions on a ‘comfort allowance’ of €19.10 per week remains hidden from most Irish people. These hostels have been compared to gulags and, as Gavan Titley argues, they are today’s Magdalene Laundries, where inmates live in overcrowded, unhygienic conditions, often two families with children forced to share small rooms, and where managers control their food, their movements, and the supply of bed linen and cleaning materials. According to FLAC, these privately owned hostels, administered by RIA (whose annual reports feature glossy pictures, as if they were advertising exclusive hotels), constitute a ‘direct provision industry’, which makes a profit on the backs of asylum seekers, costing the Irish tax payers €70,892 per resident per annum in 2009, instead of allowing asylum seekers to work and contribute to society.
These direct provision ‘holding camps’ construct their inmates as deportable subjects, ready to be deported any time, even though many have lived in direct provision for more than six years. Indeed, living with the threat of deportation is the worst aspect in the residents’ lives. Last week we launched Anti Deportation Ireland (ADI), a campaign calling to end all deportations, close all direct provision hostels, and the right to work for people seeking asylum.
At the launch several asylum seekers and former asylum seekers spoke movingly about the desperate realities of living in direct provision with the threat of deportation. As the ADI report says, deportations are ineffective, despite Minister Shatter insisting in Metro Eireann that deportation is a vital part of the immigration regime. The gap between deportation orders issued and those effected proves the point but also shows that increasing numbers of people are living in precarious conditions of ‘deportability’ in terms of lack of rights, anxiety, stress and inability to carry on with one’s life.
Deportations are also hugely costly: the overall cost of removing 280 persons from Ireland in 2011 was in excess of €1 million. The lack of independent monitoring also raises serious concerns in relation to how deportations are carried out. Finally, there are no tracking procedures as to what happens to deportees after they are deported – but ADI has evidence of deportees experiencing extreme socio-economic marginalisation, mental health and substance abuse issues, and even torture and incarceration in the countries to which they are returned.