Hundreds march in Galway to save asylum centre

Hundreds marched through Galway city today to protest the government's unjust treatment of asylum seekers who are residents of Lisbrook house.

Last week more than 270 asylum seekers staying at Lisbrook House in Galway were given one week's notice that they were to be relocated to other facilities around the country. Many of these people have been living in Galway for a number of years and have integrated into the local community, including children who have just started back to school and adults who are involved with local charity and voluntary organisations.

Asylum seekers in Ireland can spend years living in a state of legal limbo while they wait for their cases to be processed. They are placed under a system of 'direct provision' - given an allowance of €19 a week and forbidden from looking for work. This is despite the fact that many are highly qualified, some having achieved Third Level qualifications at Masters and PhD level during their stay here. Many of the residents of Lisbrook House, who range from over a dozen African nations as well as Kosovo, Chechnya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Middle East, South America and other parts of the world were forced to emigrate because of war and political or religious persecution. Ireland has the lowest approval rate for refugee status in the whole of Europe: less than 2% of claims are approved.

We are told that the proposed closure of Lisbrook House by the Reception and Integration Agency is due to "budgetary and efficiency commitments". This is the same lingo that Fine Gael, Labour and their friends in the EU/IMF/ECB troika use to defend the closure of hospital wards, accident and emergency services, drug addiction centres and cuts to disability and home help services.

At the same time, the super-rich in this country are able to avail of tax loopholes to avoid paying their fair share. The billionaire tax dodger Denis O'Brien, owner of the Independent Group of newspapers (the likes of the Evening Herald, Irish Independent, Sunday Independent, Sunday World and Irish Daily Star) uses his offshore residency status to hoard immense wealth. He also uses his media empire to attack anyone who argues for a fairer tax system in this country.

We believe that everyone in Ireland deserves the right to a decent life, regardless of where they come from. Instead of scapegoating asylum seekers and refugees, or social welfare recipients, or public sector workers for the economic shambles this country is in, we point the finger at those who created the mess - the greedy bankers, corrupt property developers and tax dodging businessmen who continue to live in incredible luxury while the rest of us are forced to fight over the crumbs.

September 15, 2012 - 15:25