Former High Court judge Dr Bryan McMahon has expressed concern that the considerable progress made in improving direct provision in Ireland is now being unwound by the current housing crisis, writes Michelle Lynch.
Speaking at the 17th Annual Human Rights Conference at Blackhall Place last Saturday (12 October), Dr McMahon said that, since the publication of the Final Report of the Working Group to Government in 2015 (of which he is former chair), there had been a number of significant geopolitical developments, including Brexit, the housing crisis, and the rise of right-wing politics in countries like Austria and Hungary, which was affecting the response to asylum seekers.
The conference was organised by the Law Society’s Human Rights and Equality Committee.
The speakers included Dr Bryan McMahon, Ambassador David Donoghue (former permanent representative of Ireland to the United Nations), Grainne O’Hara (director, Division of International Protection UNHCR), and Ellie Kisyombe (Founder of Our Table).
Politically and morally binding
Ambassador David Donoghue provided first-hand insight into the negotiations of gaining consensus for the landmark agreement of the New York Declaration, on a wide set of issues relating to the protection of refugees and migrants.
He noted that, while such agreements were not legally binding, he emphasised that they were politically and morally binding.
Grainne O’Hara highlighted the success of community sponsorship programmes, particularly in Ireland, and how important they are in light of the increasing reluctance of many states to the resettlement of refugees.
She also highlighted the “disconnect between media representation and the reality” of where asylum seekers and refugees are hosted, noting that, of the top five refugee-hosting countries, only one is an EU country – Germany.
Ellie Kisyombe shared her personal experience of direct provision, including the challenges she has experienced as a single mother trying to raise her children, unable to work or to cook for them.
While she acknowledged that improvements had been made, she emphasised that more needed to be done – but that the community had to be part of the solution.