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For some the state is a lucrative family business; making millions in keeping asylum seekers out

Jim Cusack of Irish Independent reports that “the barrister wife of former Fianna Fail minister Barry Andrews received more than a €1m for briefs from the Attorney General's office to fight asylum applications in the past five years.”

“There is no money in the country!”

This is answer we get from government politicians, famous media personalities, our bosses and representatives of big businesses, each time we question and challenge the cuts to essential public services such as the healthcare, education, transport, childcare and social welfare, as well as demanding proper living and working conditions for asylum seekers in the country.

“But, there is no money in the county!” we are told, and we supposed to shut-up and take whatever is thrown at us in a calm and obedient manner.

True, there is no money when it comes to all of the above and when it comes to the urgent need to eliminate the horrific conditions of asylum seekers, but there is plenty of it for Ms Sinead McGrath, the wife or Barry Andrews, for her legal fights against the asylum seekers.

According to the report in Independent, some of the sums paid to various barristers fighting asylum cases over the past five years is as follows:

Sinead McGrath: €1,140,832, Husband-wife team Emily Farrell and Daniel Donnelly €3 million, Siobhan Stack: €2,346,064, Sara Moorhead: €2,090,043. The total payment to just 5 individuals is over €8.5 million.

In 2008, Barry Andrews was appointed as the Minister of State for Children. He lost his seat in 2011 and became the CEO of GOAL in 2012. Between 2008 and 2012, during most of which Andrews was a government minister, the Irish government has fought a hard and viscous battle against asylum seekers.

The Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) is the key state agency for refugee applications. In the official mission statement its role is defined as “to investigate applications from persons seeking a declaration for refugee status and to issue appropriate recommendations to the Minister for Justice and Equality”. In other words, it is ORAC that decides whether an asylum seeker will be granted the refugee status or not. Refused applicants can refer their cases to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and ultimately to the courts.

The Irish Refugee Council had published a report in 2012 titled, “Difficult to believe: the assessment of asylum claims in Ireland”. In this report serious issues were raised regarding the extremely low levels of acceptance by ORAC and the racist, disbelieving and the dismissive attitude of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal towards the asylum seekers.

Between 2008 and 2012 the total number vs granted applications by ORAC was as follows

YEAR TOTAL # OF APPLICATIONS GRANTED %
2008 4591 293 6.40
2009 3098 77 2.50
2010 2192 24 1.10
2011 1834 61 3.30
2012 824 31 3.76


The 'culture of disbelief' among ORAC and tribunal members are some of the symptoms of institutionalized racism in Ireland. Claiming refugee status in any country is not an illegal act, and the burden should not be only on the asylum seeker to prove his/her own circumstances to the state. The Irish state, as the facts and figures show, has a pre-determined mindset about the asylum seekers. The 'culture of disbelief' is not something that the asylum seekers should have to - or even can - deal with so that they can get a fair process and decision without having to wait for long and painful court cases.

The Irish Independent report is much more interesting than just some huge sums earned by a small number of people.

First of all, what we see here, as the findings of the Irish Refugee Council's report also confirms, is the deep and widespread institutionalised racism. The Irish state is using all the power it has to process refugee applications in an undemocratic, non-transparent and racist manner. The whole process can sometimes take years, during which time asylum seekers are in a limbo situation without the right to work or permanent residency and opportunities for higher education. They are trapped by the inhumane Direct Provision System and are forced to live in in terrible conditions in outsourced-privately run centres. Failed applicants face deportations. Children growing in such traumatic conditions are facing an uncertain future.   

Secondly, what we have here is a cosy situation between the government, the legal system and the private businesses of legal practitioners. On one side we have a former minister who was part of the FF government's asylum/refugee policies that forced so many asylum seekers having to bring their cases to the courts, and on the other side we have his wife who earned huge sums from these cases. And in all of this, it is us, the ordinary people who paid the ministerial salaries and the huge legal bills of their partners. This is truly a case of profiteering from an institutionally racist and extremely discriminatory asylum system. This is a million Euro earned to get some people deported back to misery they run away from, while the hubby pretends to work for people in misery.

We need to be very clear in our analysis of this situation. The answer to all of these is not to blame the asylum seekers but to direct our anger to the lucrative arrangements between state bodies and the racist procedures.

The longer the state continues the Direct Provision System, the long legal procedures and deportations, the more money will be wasted without any benefit to the asylum seekers or to the society. The only benefits will be for a tiny group of political-legal-business elites who milk the system and get richer by the day.

Our rulers have wasted billions in protecting the wealth of the wealthy. No asylum seekers has costed the state the billions that Anglo and other banks have costed.

No asylum seeker has caused the delay in social housing or long the long waiting lists in the hospitals. It is the cuts that have created all this miseries for the people.

At the hight of immigration and asylum seekers coming to Ireland, the unemployment was at its lowest levels. While banks and bondholders enjoyed huge profits and international corporations got away with paying little or no tax, workers, migrants and asylum seekers who became refugees worked very hard to earn a decent living.

Ireland was not forced into the Troika deal because of asylum seekers but because of the commitment of the right-wing governments to protect the wealthy.

Asylum seekers did not raise the house prices or sucked the welfare system.

It is not because of them that our classroom sizes are increasing, but because there are now less, much less number of teachers employed.  

It is not because of asylum seekers that we paid €100 million in additional household taxes that is now funding the privatisation of our water and paying huge sums to consultants.  

Asylum seekers want to work, they want to continue their education and build a new life for their families in this country. A tiny fraction of the money paid to the bondholders and to wasted to pay off the private debts would have been sufficient to enable these conditions.

Asylum seekers are a fact of life in many countries because of wars, dictatorial regimes, famine, poverty and all sorts of inhumane conditions around the world. Many of these, almost all of them, are man-made.

In Iraq, the number of people who were displaced and lost everything due to the war is bigger than the population of Dublin. In Afghanistan, the number of displaced people exceeds the population of Ireland. In Africa, European governments continue to sell arms and provide funding to some of the most brutal regimes in the world. In Gaza, a place which has one of the worse living conditions in the world, more than a million people live under constant occupation and in extreme poverty.

We need to start asking our rulers about their involvement in all of these. We need to ask the EU governments how much they are spending on wars, invasions and  warfare that creates misery and displace people.

We need to demand equality for all people in this country.

The Direct Provision System must be abolished. All asylum seekers should be given the right to work, right to full residency and education.

Ultimately, all of these come down to what sort of society and a world we like build for ourselves and our children. A society of exploitation and corruption where many suffer for the benefit of a tiny minority at the top, or a society without exploitation, wars, poverty and racism?

The fight goes on.

In this fight, we must defend the asylum seekers and get rid of the system of racism and racist profiteering.

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English
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