The “right to travel” has always been denied to asylum seeking women

 

Ever since my time working with refugees in Ireland (from 2007 until 2011), I have been troubled by the effective blanket bar on allowing asylum seekers to leave the State.

This emanates from Section 9(4) of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended):

Leave to enter or remain in State.

Section 9(4) An applicant shall not—

(a) leave or attempt to leave the State without the consent of the Minister […]

Irish citizens are free to exit Ireland’s borders and, being citizens of a member state of the EU, have the freedom to travel to over 28 European countries without the need to apply for a visa application and a grant of permission from immigration officers to cross borders.

Most other people residing in Ireland with an officially recognised immigration status have the freedom to exit Ireland in a similar way. In practice these are generally citizens from countries outside of the EU. Whether from Canada or Cameroon, those seeking to travel within the EU, therefore, will need to apply for permission to enter another EU state.

Asylum seekers are in a class of their own. They must seek the permission of the Justice Minister of the day if they wish to leave the territory of the state. (They must also, if the consent of the Minister has been obtained, seek permission from the other state to enter.)

Asylum seekers in Ireland are seeking international protection from this state. While the rationale behind requiring such a person to remain within this jurisdiction throughout the duration of their application is understandable, this blanket rule is inherently problematic.

During the almost five years of my work with refugees I encountered significant numbers of women who claimed to have been subjected to various forms of violence and torture, including sexual violence. Some were subjected to trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Some came from conflict zones, where the systematic use of sexual violence is used as a weapon of war. Some had become pregnant as a result of rape. Some had been subjected to intimate partner violence before or after arriving in Ireland. Some were children under the age of 18, including separated children in the care of the HSE.

None of them could exercise their right to travel, if they so wished and had the resources to do so, without the consent of the Minister for Justice.

This remains the case today.

 

Broadcast coverage of Ireland Women’s rugby

 

On Saturday, confirmation of Ireland’s qualification to the semi-final round of the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup was followed by this tweet from RTÉ’s 2FM:

 

While increased coverage in Irish media of women’s sport is welcome, is it really satisfactory for the state broadcaster to announce radio-only coverage half-way through a major international tournament?

Could we even imagine a world where this would be the kind of coverage given to the senior men’s rugby team?

 

I’ll try to respond to Damien in this post, since 140 characters isn’t nearly enough.

To give credit where it is due: RTÉ News’ sport bulletins have improved over the couple of last years – to go so far as leading with reports on the women’s squad, even before the recent New Zealand win; and there has been consistent coverage and reporting of the Irish women’s rugby squad’s achievements from the likes of Damien O’Meara and Game On 2FM, RTÉ’s Michael Corcoran, Mary White of The Irish Examiner, Gavin Cummiskey of The Irish Times, Dan Sheridan and Billy Strickland of Inpho, the photojournalists of Sportsfile, and precious few other Irish journalists.

Indeed, reporters are more often than not present at fixtures and events.

The question is whether or not Irish eyes can fix on moving images of women on a playing pitch: through the medium of television. Will a report or footage end up on the cutting floor; and if a piece is published or broadcast, just what treatment will it get?

We can only judge on what has gone before, so let’s work back from this latest tournament.

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Getting it first, but not getting it right: An example of journalistic failure?

  • You can contact Samaritans in Ireland on 1850 60 90 90 -or- 116 123 -or- jo@samaritans.org, and in Northern Ireland on 08457 90 90 90

 

Diario El Universo. Image: © Alfredo Molina/Creative Commons 3.0
Diario El Universo. Image: © Alfredo Molina/Creative Commons 3.0.
Image: © Alfredo Molina/Creative Commons 3.0

 

This morning, An Garda Síochána in Dublin closed of part of a city centre thoroughfare due to a major incident.

The incident, which had been unfolding from around mid-morning and which has reportedly now been resolved successfully, attracted significant attention among members of the public using Twitter. Some of these people posted written comments; some of these people posted images.

Not long afterwards, well-known Irish journalists, blogs, publications and broadcasters were on the story. They, too, posted comments and images of the incident on social media, as well as on their own websites.

Shortly after that, several members of the public (including me) posted comments, as well as replies, on Twitter to draw attention to the Samaritans Media Guidelines for reporting on such incidents.

To their credit, some individuals and blogs removed their tweets and content from their websites. To their shame, the established media organisations did not; instead, they continued to update their social media accounts and online reports with live updates, photos, videos, embedded tweets, and so on. (To date, many of these remain available to view.)

Image: Screengrab: @Oireachtas_RX (Oireachtas Retort) - 11:46 AM, 1st July 2014

Image: Screengrab: @Oireachtas_RX (Oireachtas Retort) – 11:46 AM, 1st July 2014

 

The problems with the reporting on today’s incident

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Direct Provision centres: Local electoral areas

The local and European elections take place this Friday, 23rd May 2014.

Further to the Irish Refugee Council’s letter for local election candidates, and based on a Written Answer from Alan Shatter TD to a Parliamentary Question put by Mary Lou McDonald TD (25th March 2013), I have drafted a PDF list of the local electoral areas (and local authorities) where Direct Provision centres are based.

Direct provision centres local electoral areas. Click for PDF.

 

This has been put together quite quickly, and may contain some errors. All suggestions for correction or amendment are welcome.

Round-up: Local elections, asylum seekers & the right to vote

I wrote last week about the attempt by the Reception & Integration Agency to impede access by election canvassers to voters living in Direct Provision centres. Below is a round-up of related coverage across the media.

(Any omissions are mine, and unintended. Please let me know if you think there is anything else that should be included.)

A Direct Provision centre in Dublin. Image: Google Streetview

A Direct Provision centre in Dublin. Image: Google Streetview

Tuesday

 

Wednesday

 

Thursday

 

Friday

Discussing Direct Provision with Liveline’s Joe Duffy

Yesterday, I received a call from researchers of RTÉ Radio 1’s Liveline programme, asking me if I would be available and willing to speak about the issue of of local election candidates’ access to Direct Provision centres.

Below is a transcript of my discussion with Liveline’s presenter, with Joe Duffy, which took place at around 2pm.

You can listen to the programme here. (My contribution is about seven and a half minutes long, followed by contributions from Margaret Peters and another caller.)

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“You’re not from Galway, at all.” Who may vote in local & EU elections?

Yesterday, Oliver Callan shared a video from the Galway Advertiser, filmed on 9th May and published on 13th May last. It depicts protesters confronting An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, while canvassing last week.

 

During the exchange with one of the protesters, Kenny responds by saying:

You’re not from Galway, at all.

The woman he’s addressing has an accent which could be from northern England. Callan, in his tweet, describes Kenny as having patronised the woman. The Galway Advertiser asks, “What did Enda Kenny mean by that question?”

This week, the week after this encounter in Galway, the news emerged of a state agency impeding the access of local election canvassers to voters in Direct Provision centres – a situation which remains unchanged.

Aside from the fact people from Ireland come in a variety of colours, accents and creeds, in any event this has very little to do with local and European elections. You do not need to be from Ireland to have the right to vote in local and European elections.

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Politicians are still not allowed to talk to people living in Direct Provision

[UPDATE 16th May 2014 at 9:05am]

The Dr Liam Thornton on the Human Rights in Ireland blog has summarised arguments put forward by the State in an ongoing legal challenge to the system of Direct Provision in Ireland. These arguments include the rationale behind the introduction of the system of Direct Provision.

[END UPDATE]

 

Does this remedy this? In short: no.

Not least because it seems that the Circular issued by RIA purports to maintain a prohibition on election candidates speaking with residents; nor due to the fact that RIA continues to insist on imposing a designation of “politically neutral environment” upon every Direct Provision centre in Ireland.

More fundamentally, there appears to be precisely zero basis in law for RIA’s missives.

Small change

The headline in TheJournal.ie remains a true statement: Politicians are not allowed to talk to people seeking asylum in Ireland.

The Circular which was issued within 24 to 48 hours of Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire’s initial tweets makes one change to existing RIA policy. Election candidates “may be allowed to drop off election leaflets to be picked up and read by residents if they so wish,” which “may be left in a suitable designated area” within the Direct Provision.

This is the only explicit change in RIA policy. Everything else remains as it was.

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State agency allows election literature in direct provision centres

As per the update from Dr Liam Thornton on the Human Rights in Ireland blog, there have been some developments in relation to access to election information for residents in direct provision accommodation, who have the right to vote in local elections.

Voter pamphlet. Image: Pete Forsyth (CC Licence)

Voter pamphlet. Image: Pete Forsyth/Wikimedia (CC Licence)

In a Circular issued yesterday by the Reception & Integration Agency, candidates may now leave election literature in direct provision centres. It’s available on the Human Rights in Ireland blog as a PDF, here. The Irish Refugee Council has published a transcript of it and its predecessor, here. I include the transcript below.

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Reception & Integration Agency circular on “politically neutral” environments

The following document was released some years ago to Dr Liam Thornton, a lecturer in law at the UCD School of Law, under a Freedom of Information request for any and all documents related to the legal regulation of Direct Provision.

I have included a transcript of the document further below, for ease of reading.

Reception & Integration Agency circular on Distribution or display of party political leaflets, posters or circulars, 18th July 2008

Reception & Integration Agency circular on Distribution or display of party political leaflets, posters or circulars, 18th July 2008
(Click to enlarge.)

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