Two things happened on this year’s World Refugee Day. While Sophie Magennis, head of the UNHCR office in Ireland, wrote on the continued relevance of asylum, another mass deportation to Nigeria took place after many direct provision centres were raided at dawn by the GNIB.
Magennis reminded Irish Times readers that worldwide 42 million people ended 2011 as refugees, internally displaced, or seeking asylum, and that humanitarian catastrophes in Afghanistan (the largest producer of refugees), Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, continue to produce refugees.
Though the UNHCR has been working with the Irish government (some say too closely), Magennis criticised the inhumane direct provision system and advocated a ‘single procedure’ in the determination of asylum cases. In the current system people seeking asylum in Ireland are first interviewed by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner to determine whether they were persecuted on grounds of race, religion, nationality, membership of a social group or political opinion. Only after this procedure ends must applicants raise their fear of returning home where they may be tortured or killed. Magennis and the UNHCR recommend a ‘single procedure’ to determine both persecution and protection, which, she believes, the new version of the Immigration Residence and Protection due before the Dáil, will address.
While welcoming her article, I find it unacceptable that Magennis said nothing about deportations and their cost in asylum seekers’ lives, particularly as World Refugee Day spelt another mass deportation from Ireland to Nigeria.
Anti Deportations Ireland (ADI) was informed that people including, women and children, were taken in Carriick-on-Suir, Cork and Portlaoise. One case stood out: out of desperation, a woman called Adekemi tried to harm herself with a knife while she was being taken from her room. After having dragged her outside naked from the waist up, the police pepper-sprayed her, beat her severely, and handcuffed her in front of young children who were visibly distraught. As she had recently undergone a serious stomach surgery, the scar opened and started bleeding while she was being beaten. Adekemi was then hospitalised, but after a short time she was brought back to the hostel, and together with her three children, taken to the airport by the GNIB for deportation.
ADI’s statement reads, ‘we find it shameful that these brutal incidents happened on World Refugee Day, while the UNHCR and state elites are attempting to project a tolerant and multicultural image of themselves. In reality, asylum seekers are increasingly affected by ruthless forms of state racism as the story of Adekemi and many others highlight’.
Like other ADI members, perhaps because at some stage, my own family were also refugees from Nazi Europe, I am extremely uneasy about deportations, which the Minister of Justice insists are a ‘rational’ part of the asylum process.
ADI is a national, multi-ethnic grassroots network/alliance of activists, asylum seekers, refugees, community workers, trade unionists, and academics who have come together to campaign against forced deportations and for the abolition of the direct provision system. Our campaign will be launched soon through documenting the human and financial costs of deportations, based on individuals’ personal testimonies. We aim to raise awareness, organise public events and network with other groups campaigning against deportations, in Ireland and beyond. We appeal to all concerned citizens and activists to join our campaign against deportations and the direct provision system.