The new Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar has increased the weekly allowance of asylum seekers by €2.50 per week.
I hope this measure will be seen as a small gesture to migrants that the Government will be more compassionate to their needs and sensitive to their aspirations in the future.
Leo Varadkar offers a ‘small gesture‘ to asylum seekers while the private contractors in the lucrative business of direct provision are enjoying millions of profits each year.
While ordinary people in the system are left to suffer from lack of public provisions and duty of care, private companies enjoy millions of profits from this suffering. Direct Provision as a business has turned the state’s duty of care to victims fleeing war and oppression into profits for private companies.
The Direct Provision System was established in 2000 as a 6 month temporary measure to deal with asylum seekers coming to Ireland. It forces asylum seekers to live on €19.10 weekly (increased to €21,60) state allowance in terrible accommodation conditions without the right to work or access to third level education.
There are more than 4,500 people in Direct Provision centres, including around 1,000 children. 17 years on this inhumane system has become a permanent entrapment for asylum seekers and has turned into a profit making businesses for the private companies running the centres.
In 2016, eight companies running more than thirty centres received the massive revenue of €43.5 million in state contracts.
According the to Department of Justice figures, in 2016 Mosney Holidays and East Coast Catering received more than €7 million each from the state contracts. Between 2002-16 Mosney Holidays received a total of €119.4 million and East Coast Catering €115 million. Like many other contractors in the business of Direct Provision, these companies, thanks to their foreign held accounts, don’t have to declare their profits.
Fazyard Ltd and Old George Ltd received payments totalling €6 million in 2016.
Three other private contractors received payments in excess of €5 million, including Avoca owner and international food and services giant Aramark, which received €5.2 million. Bridgestock received €5.8 million bringing its earning since 2000 to €86 million. Barrow Group received €5.1 million last year.
Millstreet Equestrian Services received €4.1 million. Since 2000, Millstreet has received a total of €73 million from the State.
Another firm, Onsite Field Management received payments of €2 million to provide services for asylum seekers at State-owned centres.
Following the policies of the previous Fianna Fáil/Green and Fine Gael /Labour governments, the current Fine Gael government of austerity refuses to recognise the well documented conditions of asylum seekers in Direct Provision and continues to dismiss calls to end it.
United Against Racism is running a major “End Direct Provision” campaign. Recently a motion supported by 37 TDs triggered a Dail debate in which the government defended the continuation of the system.
According to latest CSO figures, there are more than 180,000 vacant homes in Ireland and the number of houses built is at a record low. House prices have risen by 11% last year. Rents are rising fast. We have a massive housing and homelessness crisis. The government refuses to recognise the crisis and lets the profit driven private sector to manipulate the housing needs. There are enough money and homes to provide housing for all.
As in everything else there are huge public funds available for private companies to do the ‘dirty’ work of Direct Provision. These sums are wasted money that could be used to provide housing and other social services for asylum seekers. But this is a price Irish governments are willing to pay to keep the system in place.
Despite the State’s claims that the Direct Provision System provides the best value for money, all international and national research available is consistent in showing that the system violates asylum seekers’ basic rights to housing, family life, food, health, work and education and is also economic madness.
Direct Provision provided the best cover for Irish governments over the past 17 years not only to continue with their unwelcoming asylum polices, but also to get away with unforgivable inhumanity .
In fact the entire asylum system is based on one main principle: keeping the asylum seekers out. If possible, out of Ireland altogether, but, if that fails, out of sight and out of public and social life, in other words, out of minds. It is designed to ensure asylum seekers don’t sink roots in this country.
It must end now!