Thank you so much to all who came along to the talk on Direct Provision last night.
I know everyone will agree that the speakers were brilliant. They bravely and sincerely spoke of their wishes to belong, to contribute, to be able to work, to care for their children with privacy and the ability to make their own decisions.
They spoke of the mental strain, the stresses and fears that led to medical issues. In other words, they asked for nothing more than the human rights that both Irish and UN law already confer to them. They are asking for respect and dignity.
The conditions in some centres that were revealed were shocking. Equally shocking are the millions dished out to the handful of private enterprises who operate without any real watchdog overseeing them.
I was more than happy to share last night why I decided to travel with Abolish Direct Provision Ireland to present at the 100th International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), at the UN High Commision in Geneva next week.
It is to share the work I have recently started doing on documenting and submitting official complaints on behalf of the asylum seekers. The Ombusdman has accepted one complaint and I have notified them of my intent to submit another which they have agreed to pursue.
I am travelling to present on behalf of these people, to honour their bravery in coming forward and to give them a voice.
I was very proud to present yesterday with these two brilliant ladies. Juliet who spent six years in direct provision with her children and 2 masters degrees that were useless to her to provide for them because of our laws.
And Diane who came to Ireland as an unaccompanied minor and was put in a centre which was overseen by security guards... in other words a detention centre. She is a fantastic role model for any young person in direct provision.
She came through all of the difficulties she encountered along the way and is now studying her masters in social studies and is a Mum.
These are the people who should be sitting around the tables of government contributing to policy and the decision making process.
I'm delighted that the UN has given them this opportunity and look forward to the session in Geneva today where we listen to the government answer all of the questions we posed yesterday.
I will share the issues I raised in the session as it was my role to question the accountability and transparency of the dept of justice and the whole lack of an independent watchdog to ensure complaints and redress are fair.
We also spoke of the need to move away from the for profit private model which costs the state millions and goes directly to the pockets of only 9 businesses in Ireland.
It is time for change and that change can start with you.
Just by getting more aware of the issues and challenges we can start discussions and raise awareness.
Then we need to get vocal to our elected representatives and put this issue on the table as an election campaign issue.
In the past 20 years the Irish government have spent €1.3 billion on accommodation for asylum seekers. The vast majority of this has gone to private stakeholders. This means we have no infrastructure to cope with the 60% increase in asylum applicants this year alone. Yet the government blindly want to repeat the same mistakes and stick to this private model? We want them to build. Build accommodation on government owned land.
Consult with communities and include them in a balanced and proportionate approach to welcoming asylum applicants.
More than 1 approach is needed. 1 size does not fit all.
Will be interesting to hear our government respond today.