Political Responses to Asylum Seekers and the Australian General Election

OZ flagHuman Rights in Ireland welcomes this guest post from Siobhan Drislane. Siobhan previously worked in the Law Reform Commission and is currently based in Western Australia. She is a graduate of University College Cork (BCL and LLM). Siobhan is currently based in western Australian, working as a Project Coordinator in the non for profit sector.

With just days to go until the Australian General Election on 7th September 2013, discussion of the big issues and policies are of course now well underway. One of these major issues is that of illegal maritime arrivals (IMA’s), or more colloquially known as “boat people” arrivals.

The term “boat people” is concerning in itself as it tends to dehumanise the individuals it relates to, as well as their plights. By focusing on the vessel and the method of arrival to Australian waters the term effectively fails to acknowledge individuals as asylum seekers in need of assistance. Nonetheless, the phrase is  well-established,  used by Government, politicians, media and the general population alike and is used and understood to be a descriptive term rather than an offensive one. The Parliament of Australia explains that the term originated in the 1970’s in relation to people seeking asylum arriving by from Vietnam following the Vietnam war.

The following decades, and most notably from 1999 to the present time, have seen fluctuations in the number of boat arrivals carrying asylum seekers. 1999, 2000 and 2001 inclusive saw peaks of 3,721, 2,938 and 5,526 of IMA’s respectively. The period from 2002 – 2008 inclusive saw numbers of IMA’s less than 200, and sometimes even less than 100, in a given year. Subsequent to this numbers have steadily increased – with 2,850 arrivals in 2009, 6,850 in 2010, 4,733 in 2011 and 7,120 up to the 31st July 2012.  Three factors relative to these variations include world events (such as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), Government policies and, perhaps more recently identified as a real factor, the role of people smugglers who charge individuals large sums of money to carry them to Australia with the promise of starting a new life there.

As the election approaches political policy on the issue of asylum seekers arriving by boat is a hot topic. Both the Labour Party, who sit as current Government (and have done since December 2007), and the opposition Liberal Party have taken a strong stance on the issue in setting out their policies for the electorate. To a certain extent both could also be accused of using the ‘boat people’ as pawns in their election campaigns. But before commenting on the current campaign positions, let us first briefly note past policies which have existed throughout the period from 1999 to 2013.

John Howard sat as Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party from March 1996 to December 2007. The Howard Government took a strict position on the issue of illegal maritime arrivals, and this is notably reflected in the low number of arrivals from 2001 to 2007. The Howard Government continued to support the mandatory detention of unauthorised arrivals policy which had been established by the Keating Government in 1992 (prior to 1992 detention of authorised arrivals was a matter of discretion under the Migration Act 1958); Continue reading “Political Responses to Asylum Seekers and the Australian General Election”

Political Responses to Asylum Seekers and the Australian General Election

World Day of Social Justice and Ireland

Today marks the UN World Day of Social Justice. A society built on social justice is a society that not only values equality and diversity, but also puts economic and social frameworks in place for the achievement of social justice for all, regardless of race, creed, disability, sexuality, gender, political opinion, gender identity ethnicity, class and the myriad of other ways that we as human beings view and distinguish each other. Social justice is closely linked with economic justice, and as Ban Ki -moon has stated in his message for World Day of Social Justice,

Growing inequality undermines the international community’s progress in lifting millions out of poverty and building a more just world. The fault lines are visible in falling wages for women and young people and limited access to education, health services and decent jobs.

This week in Ireland we were reminded how socially unjust past actions, such as slavery, confinement and discrimination on the basis of class and gender can blight individuals full potential in later life. An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny gave a heartfelt apology to the Magdalene women. The Magdalene women fought to be heard for many decades of the plight they faced at the hands of religious institutions, directly and indirectly, assisted by the people of Ireland (see, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, herehere and here for simply a sampling on the issues regarding Magdalene Laundries that have previously been discussed on this blog).

From past (and continuing) wrongs to present social justice concerns, the recession Continue reading “World Day of Social Justice and Ireland”

World Day of Social Justice and Ireland

Human Rights and the Irish Government's Legislative Agenda 2012 and Beyond

The Department of An Taoiseach has published the overly ambitious legislative agenda for the current Dáil and Seanad session. The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 will (hopefully!) be heading to Committee Stage this term. The 2010 Immigration Bill has been around in essence since 2006, and will unlikely be coming into force for some time to come yet, despite severe need for fundamental reform of Ireland’s immigration and asylum laws.  Previous blog posts have discussed concerns with the 2010 Bill and its provisions, as well as noting the severe delays in debating this bill [see, here, here and here].  In the immediate future, a number of significant bills are expected be published that will engage Ireland’s human rights obligations under domestic, European and international human rights law. Of particular note in this regard will be establishing the DNA database (see Vicky’s Blog Carnival posts on DNA databases) and reforming the law on mental capacity (see Law Reform Commission’s report here and Human Rights in Ireland contributions to the wider capacity debate here).

A large number of other  Schemes/Heads of Bills are currently being drafted up as bills, in particular as regards criminal justice issues, corruption Continue reading “Human Rights and the Irish Government's Legislative Agenda 2012 and Beyond”

Human Rights and the Irish Government's Legislative Agenda 2012 and Beyond

UNHCR #do1thing Campaign

From October 10th to October 24th, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Do 1 Thing campaign will be running. UNHCR Ireland, along with all other UNHCR agencies, are urging people to Do 1 Thing to show support for refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland and abroad. UNHCR estimates that in 2010, there were 43.75 million people worldwide who were displaced due to conflict and persecution. The developing world hosts 80% of the world’s refugees and asylum seekers. Ireland received 1, 939 individual applications for recognition of refugee status from asylum seekers in 2010. UNHCR is asking people to show their support in a number of ways:

  1. By learning a fact about refugees, meeting a refugee , watching a movie or read a book, get to know another culture, find out more about the history of refugees in Ireland and/or by donating to UNHCR.
  2. By writing a blog post, tweeting, posting a comment on Facebook or Google +. On Twitter use the hashtag #do1thing and on Facebook tag UNHCR Ireland.
  3. Letting friends know about UNHCR Ireland’s campaign and adding a twibbon on Twitter.
  4. Keeping up to date with UNHCR Ireland’s work on Facebook and Twitter.

Over the next two weeks, Human Rights in Ireland will be posting regularly on refugee and asylum issues as part of the #do1thing campaign. These short posts will highlight some key issues in relation to the refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland and internationally. It should also be noted that while these posts seek to contribute to the Do 1 Thing campaign, the opinions contained therein, do not necessarily represent the views of UNHCR or UNHCR Ireland.

UNHCR #do1thing Campaign

High Court Refuses Injunction in Asylum-Seekers' Education Case: Preliminary Analysis

RTE reports today that four Leaving Cert students have been refused an injunction by the High Court forcing the HSE to fund their return to school in Dublin. According to RTE, “the four, who arrived in Ireland from Africa as unaccompanied minors two years ago, were moved to adult accommodation for asylum seekers in Galway when they reached the end of the school year and had turned 18”.

The Irish Times states that they “are seeking a High Court injunction requiring the HSE to put into place an appropriate aftercare plan, including the provision of finances, that would allow them to complete their Leaving Certificate examinations at the schools in Dublin they previously attended. The injunction would remain in place pending a full hearing of their action”. Continue reading “High Court Refuses Injunction in Asylum-Seekers' Education Case: Preliminary Analysis”

High Court Refuses Injunction in Asylum-Seekers' Education Case: Preliminary Analysis

FLAC to launch Direct Provision report

Launch of Report: ‘One Size Doesn’t Fit All’. Accompanied by a screening of Living in Direct Provision

18 February 2010

This event will take place on Thursday 18 February 2010 at 11am in the Georgian Suite, Buswell’s Hotel (23-25 Molesworth Street, Dublin)

Launch of ‘One Size Doesn’t Fit All’

FLAC will launch their new report ‘One Size Doesn’t Fit All’, a legal analysis of the system of direct provision and dispersal in Ireland, 10 years on. The report updates and elaborates on some of the key concerns about the system of direct provision and dispersal identified in FLAC’s 2003 publication, Direct Discrimination? and examines the system of direct provision in the context of government policy, domestic law and international human rights standards.

Screening of ‘Living in Direct Provision’

‘Living in Direct Provision is a series of short films speaking to a variety of issues affecting asylum seekers and families living in the direct provision system. Filmed over a 6 month period through digital storytelling workshops, the DVD was produced by Integrating Ireland and the Refugee Information service in collaboration with FOMACS.
The event will be chaired by Noeline Blackwell, FLAC. There will be contributions from Josephine Ahern, ISICI, Sue Conlan, IRC, and Saoirse Brady, FLAC. The launch also marks the UN’s World Day of Social Justice which falls on 20 February.

Tea, coffee and sandwiches will follow the launch.

As spaces are limited please RSVP to:

campaigns@flac.ie or at (01) 874 5690 by Friday 12 February 2010.

A regional launch will take place in Limerick on February 22 2010, see here for more.

FLAC to launch Direct Provision report

Deirdre Duffy: Legitimate Victims, Illegitimate Agents

logoThis is our second guest post from Deirdre Duffy. You can read about Deirdre on our Guest Contributors page.

According to the author Stanley Cohen (1997), no group has been as systematically and consciously demonised as refugees and asylum seekers. In his analyses of the creation of moral panics Cohen argues that at no point have this group been portrayed – accurately or otherwise – as anything other than a threat to society as a whole. Their status as people in need of refuge and sanctuary has been constantly questioned. It is little wonder then that advocates of refugee and asylum seekers constantly try to underline this group’s victimhood. Asylum seekers are not, after all, seeking asylum without good reason. However, in the long term, this promotion of the victimhood of refugees and asylum seekers places them in an extremely precarious position, one felt by many vulnerable groups, where their villainy is only negated by their ability to be victims. While this may not seem to be problematic, it is quite disempowering and restrictive of their ability to move from being asylum seekers to ordinary members of society by themselves. Legitimacy means powerlessness.

Continue reading “Deirdre Duffy: Legitimate Victims, Illegitimate Agents”

Deirdre Duffy: Legitimate Victims, Illegitimate Agents

Liam Thornton: The Culture of Control and Reception Conditions for Asylum Seekers in Ireland

logoThis post is contributed by our regular member Liam Thornton. You can read about Liam on our Contributors page.

A central concern of the welfare state within post-modern welfare debates is the use of discipline, whereby the democratic-welfare-capitalist society is the disciplinary or controlling society. Asylum seekers can be viewed as a threat to the functioning of the welfare state. Welfare state regimes, when they were being formulated, were addressed to citizens. However, the welfare state only ever provided a modicum of support to those relying on it. The welfare state can, in certain situations, be considered a penal institution, whose abstract penality is all the more pervasive when those outside the contours of entitlement seek to rely on basic state supports. Geddes argues that “the bogus myth of welfare scrounging” has polluted contemporary immigration and protection debates.

The welfare state has become a forum for exclusion of asylum seekers from mainstream welfare provision (For information on current reception regimes for asylum seekers in Ireland, see here). Current literature on reception conditions for asylum seekers in Ireland fails to properly account for its punitive nature. The current reception conditions in place developed against a background of heightened concern about growing number of asylum seekers and other persons seeking protection arriving in Ireland (see here). Continue reading “Liam Thornton: The Culture of Control and Reception Conditions for Asylum Seekers in Ireland”

Liam Thornton: The Culture of Control and Reception Conditions for Asylum Seekers in Ireland

Asylum Seekers, Migrant Workers & Budget 2010

Mary HanafinFollowing up from Mairead’s post on campaigning groups and Budget 2010, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Mrs. Mary Hanafin T.D. has remained tight-lipped about the suspected cuts to the social welfare budget (See the Minister’s interview with Pat Kenny on RTE’s  The Frontline here). In a recession, those particularly on the margins will be affected. Government social support for asylum seekers was extraordinarily low in the dizzying heights of the Celtic Tiger, and there is no indication that those within the direct provision system will see this system discontinued or reformed-despite the pure economic benefits that could ensue (see a previous blog post on this here).

The condition of reception centres which cater for some 6,800 asylum seekers has recently been in the news (here and here). Asylum seekers in Sligo complained about the condition of a reception centre, due to a lack of hot water and lack of adequate hygiene facilities.

SVPIt is unlikely that Budget 2010 will see any increase in the stipend of €19.10 per adult and €9.60 per child per week.  Saint Vincent de Paul has stated that there should be no decrease in this level of payment and “common decency requires the rate to be increased”.

Limerick Mayor, Kevin Kiely has stated that immigrants who cannot afford to pay for themselves should be deported from the country after three months. While it is unclear who precisely Cllr. Kiely was referring to, his comments should be challanged. For those seeking protection from the State, they are legislatively prohibited from working on pain of a fine and/or imprisonment. For those immigrants who had an entitlement to work in Ireland, often in the building industry and services sector, it sends a message that these people are simply a means to an end. Once maximum economic value was gained from these immigrants contribution to the economy, they are to be case aside and sent home. It will be interesting to see if debates on immigration, asylum and welfare protection will come to the fore in the coming weeks, in the lead up to Budget 2010.

I will be live blogging Budget 2010 on HRiI on December 9, 2009.  This will be followed by a blog carnival on December 10 2009 (International Human Rights Day) assessing the impact of Budget 2010 on human rights protections in Ireland.

Asylum Seekers, Migrant Workers & Budget 2010

Asylum Seeking Women and Direct Provision

R and I AgencySome worrying news from Galway’s and Mayo’s rape crisis centres.  Asylum seeking women are being propositioned for sex outside reception centres. Aoibheann McCann of Galway’s Rape Crisis Centre (GRCC) states that many of these women are vulnerable, after suffering rape in their countries of origin.  20% of those who report rape or sexual abuse to GRCC are asylum seekers.

Sen HealySenator Fidelma Healy Eames has called for random Gardaí (Irish police force) patrols outside direct provision centres to prevent men from preying on vulnerable child and adult asylum seekers. Senator Eames has also called for a more fundamental review of the direct provision system, noting that it costs  €27,000 to provide for an asylum seeker under this system, as compared to an average cost of  €18,000 per asylum seeker who is within traditional welfare state structures. (I have previously blogged on the direct provision system and asylum seekers, these posts can be found here and here).

Asylum Seeking Women and Direct Provision