Ó Maoileannaigh backs USI campaign against “horrid” direct provision

USI President Michael Kerrigan protesting outside Avoca in December Photo by Roisin Power for University Times

USI President Michael Kerrigan protesting outside Avoca in December. Photo by Roisin Power for University Times.

NUI Galway’s Students’ Union has joined the fight against the horrors of Ireland’s direct provision scheme and is actively taking part, along with numerous Student Unions across the country, in the protest against what SU President Lorcán Ó Maoileannaigh referred to as the modern day Magdalene Laundries.

On Saturday 20 January the SU and numerous NUIG students took part in a protest against direct provision in Galway and the SU President was especially taken back by a woman who had spent the last nine years trapped by the scheme in Galway.

“We’re not campaigning against asylum seekers,” the SU President told SIN.

“We’re campaigning against the horrid conditions that they face.”

Direct provision was a system set up as a temporary measure in Ireland in 2000 to house asylum seekers until they are granted refugee status. On average, over 4,500 people spend over three years in the system and 600 asylum seekers in Ireland have spent over seven years imprisoned by direct provision. The system has been referred to as dehumanising by many organisations and has been criticised by the UN and openly condemned by international groups.

Yet as we enter into the second month of 2018 the system has seen no improvements and people are being forced to live in shared, cramped, hotel-sized rooms with only €21.60 a week being allocated per person. The asylum seekers are required to sign in and out of the accommodation and cannot leave for more than three consecutive days. They are not allowed to work or attend third level education and aren’t even allowed to cook for themselves a lot of the time.

“These centres are like prisons,” Lorcán said.

“The fact that secondary level students in the system can’t enter into third level education is something the USI feels very strongly about.”

The majority of Ireland’s 34 centres are run by private companies who are profiting from the scheme. The USI recently staged a protest of the Aramark-owned Avoca store in Dublin for their connections to three of the centres and Trinity College students also organised a boycott of Aramark owned caterers on their campus, with UCD following suit this semester.

While no NUI Galway restaurants are associated with Aramark, our SU is backing Trinity on their campaign with Lorcán stating that “the fact that there are companies reaping benefits from people’s suffering is not acceptable and the USI is going to do all that it can to help end this”.

“The USI has a seat at a lot of tables and we’re trying to get our universities heard by politicians and bring this to Dáil level,” he said.

“The fact that these centres aren’t being paid attention to and that they are becoming common practice draws striking similarities to the Magdalene Laundries,” he stated. “Politicians of the future are going to need to apologise for these.”

On a lighter note, the Students’ Union made two other announcements recently: they will be taking on NUI Maynooth in another charity boxing event on 16 March.

Meanwhile the referendum 1 February passed by 90% as students were asked:

“Do you agreed with referendum motion proposed by the Executive Committee of the Students’ Union of the National University of Ireland Galway on 15th January 2018?”

The amendment to the NUI Galway Students’ Union constitution, as proposed by the SU Executive Committee, will result in the following:

The Vice-President / Welfare Officer will become the Vice-President / Welfare and Equality Officer with added responsibilities in the area of equality. The current part-time Equality Officer position will be abolished. The current Postgraduate Officer will be abolished. Five new part-time officer positions will be created: the International Students Officer, the Gender and LGBT+ Rights Officer, the Disability Rights Officer, the Postgraduate Taught Officer,

By Martha Brennan

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