Interview with Anti-Deportation Ireland activists

Date:

Leticia Ortega (WSM) conducts a joint interview with a woman seeking asylum and Luke Budha of Anti-Deportation Ireland (ADI) and the Anti Racism Network (ARN).

 

IAR: Tell me about your involvement in ARN and ADI.

Luke: ARN is very different from other groups, because we are not a charitable not-for-profit organisation. Our message is: all who live here, belong here. Everybody must be treated on the basis of equality. It is very important for us, migrants and indigineous people, to organise ourselves and do things by ourselves.

ARN is in this way. We do not really do anything on anyone’s behalf. Those who think they have a problem and they want to do something, but want someone to do it on their behalf have to go to NGOs. Our message is to fight for ourselves, not to help other people fight for us. In ADI we want the asylum seekers to lead the campaign and use their own voices, which is different from other organisations in Ireland.

IAR: Tell me about your life in a Direct Provision Hostel in Ireland.

Woman: I am an asylum seeker. I am four years in the system. I been living in a direct provision hostel for four years now. Originally, when I came to Ireland, it was only supposed to be for six months. I am still waiting to hear if my application for asylum will be accepted or rejected.

While in the centre, we receive Fetac Level Two education from small colleges. Aslylum seekers are prohibited from third level education, and we are also prohibited from working. We would like to choose how we want to live, and make our own choices. But right now we are living by other people’s choices. We are controlled by a reality tv show. The way we live is so difficult and it affects us and our children. Some of us experiences mentall illness because of this situation. Some of us have commited suicide, and some have died, but the numbers are not being recordered.

[In the centres] we are mixed in the rooms. Some of the rooms are occupied by 3 people and we have to share toilets with the people in the hall. We also cannot choose what we want to eat . We only eat what is there, and it is usually not healthy food, just things like cheap sandwiches and chips.

We get 19e allowance for a week but a lot of us take medication, and we need to pay 1.50 for each medicine so our allowance is not enough even for medication sometimes. Also, I need to hygyene products and there is not enough for that. I would love to work so that I do not have to depend on the government, but I am not allowed and it is very frustrating.
If I need to go to the doctor, I need to pay for transport. Sometimes they refund me, but if not how can I go to the doctor without money for transport?

IAR: Can you specify what is the particular situation of being a female asylum seeker?

Woman: As a woman I am deprived of my freedom. I want to choose where to live. I have children, and the years we have lived in the hostel was not what I expected. I would love to have my own place to live with my children, I do not think this situation is the best place to raise my children.

I live in a hostel with men and women, but they do not share rooms. Women share the rooms with their children, as many as they have, in just one room.
Sometimes the father is in the room too so there is no privacy for the adults or the children. I would love to live in a two bedroom apartment so my children can sleep in their own bedroom.

IAR: What is the reason you will not identify yourself?

Woman: The reason I am afraid to give my name is because once I give my name I will be targeted. If I give my name I will most likely be transferred to another hostel, which is what happened to other asylum seekers when they participated in political protests.
I do not want to be forced to move to a different part of the country if this is the decision of the providers. This is the reason why other asylum seekers do not want to be involved, but I am involved in ADI not just for myself but for everyone. I stand up for them and I know one day they will be thankful.

IAR: I remember you speaking at the last Dublin Anarchist bookfair about how you desperatley wanted help from other activists. I think it is really important for us, as anarchists, to understand the difference between solidarity and salvation. I want to help your cause, and I also think is really powerful that you maintain your own voices yourselves. I think it is really difficult not to cross this line. How do you think we can give you support, but without doing it ‘on your behalf’?

Woman: What I want from the Irish society is to support us without leaving everything up to us. I would love Irish people to be against what the state is doing to us. For example, demand the closure of all direct provision hostels, and demand that we are able to contribute in society. Some asylum seekers are really educated. We would like to see that our children have opportunities too. I would love to see Irish people to help give us a platform for others to listen to our voices so then the government can hear us. We need positive support from Irish people to be able to make a change.

IAR: Why did you choose to work with ADI and not other organisations who are also involved in Asylum seekers issues?

Woman: I choose ADI because they want all the Direct provision Centres to be closed, as opposed to organisations like the Irish Refugee Council that demand to improve the Direct Provision Centres, but not to close them. I think merely improving the conditions of the food we eat or building playgrounds for our children at the centres, doesn't solve the issue. We do not want that. We want stability, and to have our own homes. I want to make my own choices.

IAR: In Ireland, the pro choice movement has grown so much in the last year. Last november, the death of Savita made a huge impact on all of us who want to fight for women and sexual reproductive rights in this country, but we also have to remember that Savita was a migrant woman who was told that “ this is a catholic country”.

We always remember the 12 Irish women who daily need to travel to the U.K to have an abortion, but there are cases of migrant and asylum seekers who do not even have that choice and they are forced with unwanted pregnancy. What is your opinion about that issue? Do you have any stories related to that?

Woman: I personally do not know any women who had this experience. I am sure there are some. In my opinion, I know this country is dominated by the Catholic Church, but the government should not put limitation on women's choices. Or anybody's choices. I think the State and the Catholic Church must understand that they are not the only ones in this country who are present. Every culture and nation is present here. We do not have to throw away our own culture. We need to respect Irish culture, and Irish culture needs to respect other cultures.
Regarding to abortion legislation, the government should focus on what is best for women and every women should have abortion rights for whoever needs it.

IAR: Luke, you have been an activist for a long time. What made you be part of ADI and ARN instead of other organisations or NGOs?

Luke: What I am fighting for is for equality. I do not only care about the asylum seekers or migrant issues, but also about the communities we live in. We are very involved in other issues too, as for example the issue of austerity policies in this country. That is why we have a banner that says, “Cuts breed racism!” This is to show that we do not only care for asylum seekers. However, the issue for asylum seekers has been there for the last 10 years, yet the mainstream media barely write any stories about it. Every six months, at least, there are stories related to deportations.

NGOs do a lot of of good work, as much as they can do, but they work in the context of what they are meant to be doing, whereas we bring out the root of our real issues. For example, the incident over what happen to the African asylum seekers in the church. The asylum seekers were isolated in their community, and a few activists went to the church to defend them. This created solidarity between these communities.
Regarding deportation, people think this issue is a fiction. You cannot discuss deportations in other organisations.
As activists, we are taking control over the agenda ourselves.The problem is that in some left or liberal circles, people tend to believe that volunteering for NGOs is going to bring about a fundamental change. I think this hinders people in bringing forward more radical ideas.

We also have to remember that unlike NGOs we are all volunteers and a part of a larger spirit of social movement in Ireland and we want to be a part of debates that affect our lives. We want more people to become politicized in this country, and we want to be able to say what we want to say and do it ourselves.

IAR: ARN was founded in 2010 and ADI is now one year old. How do you see ADI and ARN’s future work?

Luke: For ADI as we said in the beginning, it needs to be led by the people who are facing deportation themselves. The number of asylum seekers involved is very low so what we want to see in the upcoming years is an increase in the number of asylum seekers involved. We would also like to see ADI as a vehicle for them to use to say what they want to say and get the social services they need from NGOs. But also ADI should be able to make the bridge between asylum seekers and other communities. We want to bring the communities to fight side by side with them because there is a danger in waiting, lobbying NGOs.

For ARN, we would like to see an egalitarian society, and we would like to see many different groups involved like the Roma people, Travellers and us as migrants. We really do need that to use our independent voices

ARN now publishes a journal that we think is important for us to have. For us this journal is a way to express our ideas and what we are doing. Our journal is unique because it is written by a mixture of migrants, activists, academics and everyone who is involved in a way in ARN and working together. We produce it twice a year and hopefully we will start to produce it 3 times a year now.

IAR: Thanks for your time.

Words: Leticia Ortega

ARN public meetings take place on the last Thursday of every month in Dublin Central Mission , Abbey Street Dublin 1.
For more information http://www.facebook.com/arnireland , www.arn.ie http://arnireland.blogspot.ie/.
Our email is arnireland@gmail.com
Everyone is welcome.


This article is from Irish Anarchist Review no 8 Autumn 2013

Like what you're reading?
Find out when we publish more via the
WSM Facebook
& WSM Twitter