“Whether the mask is labeled fascism, democracy, or dictatorship of the proletariat, our great adversary remains the apparatus—the bureaucracy, the police, the military. Not the one facing us across the frontier of the battle lines, which is not so much our enemy as our brothers’ enemy, but the one that calls itself our protector and makes us its slaves. No matter what the circumstances, the worst betrayal will always be to subordinate ourselves to this apparatus and to trample underfoot, in its service, all human values in ourselves and in others.”
― Simone Weil
A woman living in direct provision, who gave birth to her second child just three month ago, was served with an eviction order by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) from Mosney direct provision centre earlier this month. The eviction notice came days after the company running the centre refused to serve the woman food
This is letter she received. I’ve change the woman’s name for obvious reasons.
“Bed Management Letter
Dear Jane ,
For operational and bed management reasons your present accommodation arrangements have had to be reviewed by the Reception and Intergration Agency. As a consequence it has been decided to transfer you to
Knockalisheen Accomodation Centre
Your new accommodation will be available to you from Thursday 8th September, 2016”
Short and succinct, the letter itself was dated the 6th of September, just two days before RIA intended a forced removal. It’s signed by Killian J Morgan. There are many things striking about the letter. What jumps out immediately is the absence of any reference to either Jane’s three month old baby or year and a half old sibling
RIA does not outline any specific rationale, or detail any of the particulars why ‘accommodation arrangements’ needed to be reviewed in the first place. Nor does it outline what the process of review involved. Its a defacto decree with any means to official appeal.
It begs the question why was Jane was not given ANY information that might offer ANY grounds for understanding the basis of RIA intended eviction?
Sure, it’s dressed up in a sterile language less damaging to the sensitivities of Killian and other RIA bureaucrats. Who would lose sleep writing letters to evict people seeking refuge in Ireland were its just about “bed management”?
Yet it remains unmistakable. What we are reading – and what this letter is – is the exercise of arbitrary power over a family without the slightest attempt of providing any meaningful justification. It is the text book definition of authoritarianism. Written in a style and manner you would associate with long dead Soviet obfuscation.
At is core a threat issued by the state to someone seeking asylum in the state. That might seem melodramatic or perhaps challenging concept to some. However when you listen to the voices and experiences of people living or who have lived within direct provision you quickly find this is their understood reality. And a reality that is in no way lessened by ignoring it or pretending not to know.
So even on its own terms, this letter sent by RIA, is deeply problematic and reflects at the very least antipathy toward the circumstances of people living with direct provision. Many would argue that this antipathy, the lack of any sense of empathy, is itself rooted in institutional and state racism. I’d agree. Institutional and state racism is both the cause and response of direct provision.
However its gets worse. Much worse.
This letter sent by a government agency needs to be contextualised by earlier events in the Mosney Center. Jane spoke on Tuesday on Joe Duffy’s Liveline on RTE 1. Leaving aside Duffy’s tendencies to embrace people as victims but reject attempts to address structural causes, the two shows this week gave voices to the experiences of many people who live in direct provision. It was powerful, necessary and deeply uncomfortable listening.
Alongside those voices of were other voices from the ‘outside’ validating the experiences of people in direct provision. Former workers employed in direct provision centre spoke about persistent systemic degrading treatment on a daily basis. Of making people queue and beg for rationed toilet rolls. Of other employees refusing to give toiletries to individual adults, arguing one bottle of shower gel between three people in a room is sufficient.
Petty violence after petty violence, micro aggressions from management and employees as a tool of social control against people denied the basic anatomy to work for themselves and their families. Processes which cause genuine emotional traumas, depression and in some cases suicide.
This was posted on Facebook by MASI – Movement for Asylum Seekers In Ireland on 7th September.
“Woman refused food in Mosney Accommodation Centre:
We have noted with concern the ill treatment of the mother of two babies (3 months and 1 and half year) in Mosney Centre. A woman who is also breast feeding was issued with a written letter stopping her from accessing food from the kitchen since the 29th August 2016, due to her behaviour according to the management. It’s been 10 full days now since the woman has been deliberately starved by the management. Apparently the management is punishing the poor lady just because she demanded one more burger. To make it worse the officials from RIA, the agency that controls these centres, on Wednesday the 7th September issued a letter forcing the lady to take a transfer to another centre in Limerick.
What kind of treatment is this that a woman with a three months baby, breastfeeding can be deprived food in a direct provision centre? How is she expected to survive? Even in prison when the inmates had a fight and are put in solitary confinement, they are given food at least to eat. This is just an example at how cruel and inhumane this system of direct provision is. The woman is currently under unreal stress with all what is happening to her and her children. At the same time she has to stay calm and focus for the sake of her two babies. We recently are still grieving from the loss of a woman who took her own life just two weeks ago. But we still have management who just don’t care about the welfare of women and children for that matter. Shame on you Mosney management, your heartless attitude is really shameful, we cannot sit back and watch you destroy yet another life. Sometimes punitive measures are not thee way to deal with such situations. This shows lack of capacity from all of those in charge.
In solidarity with the woman and the residents in Mosney, there will be a peaceful protest outside the Mosney centre on Thursday the 8th September 2016 at 11:00am. We call upon anyone who can make it to Mosney to go there and demonstrate peacefully until the management agrees to give food to this woman and don’t transfer her unwillingly to Limerick.”
I’ve spoken to several people close to the woman and other residents of Mosney. What’s clear is that the woman is breastfeeding her three month old and like many mothers is simply much hungrier than when not breastfeeding.
At this point its worth remembering how food ‘works’ in Direct Provision. Its commonly understood that people in DP receive to €19 odd a week. This is to cover clothes, travel, and everything you need to have a life. It’s also meant to cover private rental, should someone find a place to rent for what’s left of €19 after you bought everything else.
However on the receipt issued for the €19.10 received it states clearly that the payment is the normal payment an unemployed person would get, €188, but with a deduction taken at source that goes directly to the center owners.
So whilst successive governments present DP as a choice people can make – the line “we dont force people to live in DP centres” is common – the reality is people seeking asylum are forced to do precisely that. All the while awaiting a decision on their asylum claim, with a sense of suspension and insecurity and the real fear of being physically taken and forced onto an airplane to be brought back to a place they were fleeing.
At the end of April this year there were 4,400 people living in the direct provision system across 37 geographically disperse privately managed for-profit businesses.
Food is mass cooked for people, removing the dignity and pleasure of preparing dinner for yourself and family, friends or each other. And like toilet rolls and other toiletries, food is rationed -per individual – by companies. The type and forcefulness of rationing across direct provision as described by former workers, seems to be shaped by a few factors. Profit seeking of by centre owners and authoritarianism and control by centre management.
And so we get to situation were a breastfeeding mother, asks for an extra burger because she is hungry. This is hardly surprising as many women have commented online.
And in that moment of refusal the woman crossed the serving counter and took another burger for herself in order to have enough food to eat. She began giving more burgers out to other behind her. Like anyone in that situation, you can empathise why she was pretty pissed off and decided to sort this for herself and her kids.
Yet instead of reviewing how its rations food to hungry people, the centre chose to sanction the woman. Rather than address the fact its food rationing demonstrably didn’t provide the energy and nourishment she needed, the centre barred her from the kitchen.
This is the letter sent to Jane by Mosney Center management.
Before I address the letter have some interesting facts about Mosney
Mosney is owned and run by multimillionaire Phelim McCloskey. Last year his personal wealth was estimated at €46 million.
McCloskey is a donor to Fianna Fail. In 2008 the Irish Examiner reported that Mosney Holiday village donated €6,500 to the party that set up the direct provision system.
However on top of that 2008 donations statements furnished by Fianna Fail to SIPO showed that McCloskey donated a cheque for €5,500. So in 2008 alone McCloskey gave €12,000 to Fianna Fail.
In 2009, Mosney’s accounts showed a donation of €4,050 to Fianna Fail.
That worked out ok for McCloskey and the company as successive governments – mostly under Fianna Fail has given him back over €100 million in state contracts for running the Mosney centre.
And surprise surprise Phelim McCloskey sat on a RIA working group in 2008 whose sole purpose was to look at how to deal with “complaints and instances with the reception and accommodation centres.” The working groups sought to set out House Rules and Procedures. So McCloskey no only gets to profit from this inhumane system, he has been part of designing its implementation. No people actually living in the system have been afforded a seat at the governments table like this.
Mosney’s accounts have since been harder to find, since they moved offshore much like Google, Apple etc. The primary purpose for such moves is to avoid paying taxes. Taxes that would be due on profits arising directly from our taxes handed out to McCloskey in the first place. Handed out by the political organisations he helps fund. Pretty sweet huh?
That’s worth remembering the next time you hear someone say “we should look after our own first” Because that is precisely how the Irish state is run. Rich folks who fund the big political parties are looked after first before anyone else.
McCloskey has been given over €100 million to run centre housing people in the most precarious of positions, many fleeing political violence or religious or other forms of persecution. You would expect that there is at least some proper system of governance around management. The first question in RIA’s own inspection report of Mosney in 2015 ask if Mosney has *any* type of accepted Quality Management System. And the answer to that?
No. In Mosney there is no recognised quality management system.
And so we come back to the letters. One from a belligerent business seeking to punish a hungry mother. Another a shortly after from a state agency dishing out more punishment and without the slightest attempt at justification or process. Because its just “bed management”
This isn’t the first time RIA has used Kafkaesque language. A 2010 report “Without Rights or Recognition” from the Irish Refugee Council states
“On 29th June 2010, 109 residents at Mosney, Julianstown, Co. Meath, an
accommodation centre within the ‘Direct Provision’ system, were issued with
letters requiring them to transfer to another place of temporary residence, Hatch Hall accommodation centre in Dublin. Residents, many of whom had made Mosney home for a number of years, were given one week to prepare themselves for departure. The reasoning cited for the transfers and the short period of notice was vague, with the Reception and Integration Agency invoking “operational and bed management reasons”
RIA should be recognised for what it is. It is a state agency that seeks to operate with absolute impunity and regularly makes threats to people who resist its bullying tactics.
“The provision of services to you under the direct provision system runs in parallel to the consideration by other agencies of the State of your claim for international protection and/or humanitarian leave to remain.”
The above was contain in a letter to of the 109 those resisting movement from Mosney to centres with even worse conditions. The threat is implicit. You keep making noises about conditions or our ability to move you as we see fit, and we will screw your claims over.
Working with The Live Register in 2012 I interviewed Fonong Fevant. At that stage Fonong had been in direct provision for seven years. He had been waiting for three year for a High Court ruling on his status. Over that time he was moved to seven different centres around the country. He spoke about over that time people got moved for being “rude” because they wouldn’t beg to get toothpaste. The very act of speaking out about the conditions leads to management writing letter to RIA about individuals, and invariably RIA issues an eviction letter to them. At no point do people have any official input into this processes that see them moved at the whim of the system itself.
You can watch the interview with Fonong and others speaking out below bottom.
RIA impunity however is most definitely not absolute. Self organisation amongst people in the direct provision system and support and solidarity alongside is key to ensuring institutional racism is abolished. There is no place for profit seeking in the movement of people. It’s hypocritical to criticise two dimensional “traffickers” assisting and often exploiting people fleeing wars, yet be silent and passive when this state allows companies and owners to exploit those same people seeking refuge here. That’s simply bullshit.
There is no justification in allowing RIA to continue to threaten people at the whim of centre management. The RIA, like direct provision, should be abolished. And the bureaucracy’s letter writers held to account.