AN ASYLUM seeker in Limerick who has never seen his twins since they were born is among those calling for the system of direct provision to be changed.
Speaking at a protest on Bedford Row over the ongoing living conditions faced by asylum seekers in this country, Felix Dzamara from Zimbabwe said he feels as if “I’ve lost my responsibility as a father.”
“My wife gave birth to twins last September and I’ve never seen them. I had to leave my country due to political reasons, and she had to run away from our home. What pains me most is that I’ve lost my wife and three children,” the 32 year-old told the Limerick Leader.
Felix, who is residing in Hanratty’s asylum centre, said: “We are not animals. Don’t treat us like prisoners. The system has rendered us useless. It must be changed. We fled persecution and did not come here to be put in prison again.”
Under the direct provision system, asylum seekers receive €19 per week from the State, but are not allowed to work or study, and many have been separated from their families for long periods of time. Some have spent as long as 14 years in the system, and Melad Melaadi from Afghanistan, who was on hunger strike over conditions in Foynes, said he has been transferred 14 times in his 10 years to other centres around Ireland. He too has been separated from his eight-year old daughter.
Both men were among a number of people calling for the direct provision system in Ireland to end, and were speaking to show solidarity with those on hunger strike in Mount Trenchard asylum centre in Foynes over their living conditions. Up to 100 people attended the rally, where protestors carried placards saying “You let me in, now let me live”, “No place to call home” and “Direct provision - open prison”.
Doras Luimni, the support group for migrants in the Mid-West and the Irish Refugee Council have both called for Mount Trenchard to be immediately closed. The Foynes centre has long been used as “centre of last resort” for single men with severe mental health problems, the Irish Refugee Council has claimed.
The centre houses some 55 men, who have had to flee their homes, for a variety of reasons, in the Congo, Afganistan, Sudan, Libya, Algeria, Nepal and Bhutan.
Karen McHugh, chief executive of Doras Luimni said the centre has been described by its residents as an “open prison”, and they are “losing the will to live”.
“A lot of people are profiting from the system that is costing people lives and costing the State a lot of money,” she said. “It’s the system that’s at fault. If it was a humane, fair system, these protests wouldn’t be happening,” she told the Limerick Leader.
She pointed out that the system of direct provision was introduced by the State as a temporary measure 14 years ago and was originally intended to accommodate asylum seekers in residential institutions for a period of up to six months.