By Reuben Hambackachere
On the 21st of April 2015 I officially submitted my resignation as the named individual representing the Core Group of asylum-seekers and Refugees on the Government Working Group established to examine improvements to the protection process and the Direct Provision system.
The working group was set up as the Government’s response to the countrywide protests by asylum-seekers living in direct provision and their supporters. This response presented the Government with an opportunity to remedy a broken system for asylum-seekers. The structure of direct provision raises cause for concern for the Irish state, given the level of public resources invested in the system and its administration.
I felt that, coming together with so called experts on the issue, this was a step in the right direction to overcome the cultural blindness that I believe is one of the factors underpinning this failed system alongside the fact that there is no legislative framework for these reception centres. There were restrictions in the terms of reference in relating to coming up with an alternative for those who live in this system. I felt this needed to change immediately if there was to be any credibility that the rights of asylum-seekers would be upheld in line with Ireland’s international obligations under various human rights instruments. However, I took up my position with the hope that the Working Group would be committed to the liberation of people who are being oppressed.
It was not long before I discovered that some members of the group could see the problem but did not think they were a part of it. My participation on the Working Group was an opportunity to see and learn how decisions are made or not made. I am glad I stayed up to the time I did. I participated in the consultation process and most of the plenary and thematic meetings. I felt I was well informed and had given it my best when I made my decision to exit.
I initially agreed to be on the Working Group on the basis of a mandate to negotiate and safeguard that the report and its recommendations would offer real progressive change, and restore the dignity of asylum-seekers and their children through the creation of a protection system underpinned by human rights and in line with international best practice. During the period that I was a Working Group member I pushed hard to ensure that the voices of asylum-seekers and refugees were heard. I believe that the issues of concern to asylum-seekers were well articulated during the consultation process. It was therefore my realistic hope that these issues would inform the recommendations of the Working Group.
However, after conscientiously going through all three thematic sub-group draft reports, which will form the final plenary report, I feel that the proposed recommendations fall far too short of my own expectations and probably those of the asylum-seeking community
Central amongst my concerns was that without the option to discuss any alternative to direct provision or even to submit an alternative report without referring to the terms of reference, very little change would be made to the current system. Personally, as things stood I could not stand over the limited recommendations that were going forward from the sub-groups to the plenary, nor sign my name to them. My conscience will not allow me to endorse an exercise that has not truly taken into consideration the issues that were clearly articulated by asylum-seekers during the consultation process and through other submissions.
However, the decision of the Core Group of asylum-seekers and refugees is to stay on and continue to fight. It is my hope that the Core Group will capitalise on my resignation and push further for recommendations that have some positive outcomes for the people caught up in this system. Communities which experience inequality, poverty and injustices should be protected and their rights vindicated. Ultimately, I believe high standards must apply to any reception system underpinned by the requirements of the EU Reception Directive.
I am still participating in the struggle to end direct provision and I will continue to campaign and fight for the rights of all people let down by the current system which is broken and only results in further marginalisation. This system props up a flawed model that does not work for my comrades in the core group and beyond them for the wider community of asylum-seekers. •