Direct provision is the system used by the Irish government to provide accommodation, food and other services to applicants for international protection/ asylum seekers while they await decisions on their asylum applications.
I’m pretty sure you would find a lot of news articles and topics about direct provision on the internet. I realized it’s one of the controversial subjects in Ireland for different reasons.
As a Palestinian asylum seeker living in direct provision, I’m not trying to cover what others have already covered on this system, neither I am to engage in a debate about it. I’d rather jump directly to what concerns me and my family and these concerns marginalize any debate about the quality of the accommodation.
I can claim that we, Palestinians, have the oldest ongoing experience of diaspora in the world. Our problem started in 1948, and since, we’ve witnessed several waves of displacement. Our dispute is still open, and we have 7 million refugees in and out of Palestine.
What I’ve noticed about direct provision in Ireland, is the importance of the issue for all parties in Ireland. There is a story about direct provision almost every week, either on TV, radio stations, newspapers, online media or social media. Governmental and non-governmental entities are trying to respond to the Irish communities involved with direct provision centers by providing whatever services they can. RIA (Reception and Integration Agency) tries to develop its services to comply with the related legislation and regulations.
Although I live in one of these direct provision centres, I’m not here to decide whether these services cover all aspects of residents’ needs or not, because I don’t have access to such information, and I don’t claim any to be representative of any other residents. Neither I am writing to judge or assess direct provision as a system.
When our waves of refugees arrived in Palestine’s neighbouring countries, they were suffering from exhaustion, hunger, dispossession and deprivation. Instantly, they started struggling to get shelter, food, water, clothes and other basic needs. The UN has created the UNRWA, the international agency that takes care of these basic needs. Now, after all these decades, we still have the “benefit” of the UNRWA services, while Israelis still have the benefit of our own lands!
Whenever I hear an appeal for improving the direct provision system, I feel mislead and fooled, exactly like my fellow refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt many decades ago. I think: “I’m not looking for our traditional food to be cooked in the centre. Turning direct provision centres into 5 star hotels won’t solve my problem. The more direct provision gets enhanced, the more comfortable we become, while our protection claim rests forgotten on the shelves of the IPO (International Protection Office)”.
For me, and for my family, frustration comes from uncertainty. When we first landed in Dublin, we weren’t aware of the direct provision system at all. We rented an apartment in Dublin, and when we applied for asylum, we were instructed to immediately move out and go into a direct provision centre. We were optimistic for less than two months, until our interview was cancelled without any estimated date for another appointment. What frustrates us is the fading of our belief in the temporary nature of our residence, and the growing despair that our situation is turning into an Irish version of “UNRWA”. What frustrates us is that measures of our capacity for individual integration do not affect waiting time. Your skills can be in high demand from local universities and local market, the system doesn’t take it into account at all.
Because we are refugees by inheritance, and because we realize that the loss of our own home and properties can’t be compensated by luxurious accommodation, we started our life here as “guests” not “residents”. We found safety in the welcoming faces of the staff and management. We developed our confidence by seeking beauty in the hearts of other asylum seekers. We tried to strengthen our faith in God by the infinite generosity of the volunteers we met. I tried to be thankful to the community by accepting three volunteering jobs.
It’s true that direct provision centres aren’t places that you would like to “live” in, They’re meant to be places to “stay” in while waiting for the asylum process. As applications take so long to be processed, people would certainly spend a good part of their stay struggling for “enhancements”. Demands for enhancements won’t end as long as direct provision centres have not been replaced by groups of individual houses or apartments, which are the normal accommodation anyone would be looking for. And, in my opinion, this is the fundamental issue in the controversy on direct provision.
When I am missing living in my own place, I add some personal touches to the amenities my family use. For example, by adding some greenness to the neighboring tea room. I’ve developed a very small hydroponic farm (using the Kratky method), just to give some relaxation to my family members when passing by, and to make use of some of our wasted time.
When I got our mint plant from Tesco, I transplanted it into a micro hydroponic container.
When I go out, feeling depressed of being in a reception centre instead of my own home, I take my camera and start to mess around with the place, trying to bring out its beauty, I zoom into the details, and leave out the wholeness.
And with this blog, I’m trying to make use of my time by writing my experiences. Hoping to build a bridge with the surrounding community.