64Open Letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is calling on both governments to create access to health and safety for all. People can sign the petition, just launched, HERE.
The Open Letter, which has been signed by 64 organisations (as at 17th June 2020) in the UK and Ireland, says it is imperative that everyone’s basic needs are met during the current Covid-19 pandemic and the only way to ensure this happens is by giving Leave to Remain to all refugees and migrants both inside and outside of the asylum and immigration system.
People living in extreme poverty, destitution and without immigration status are unable to socially isolate, many cannot access health care and other support, and they are prevented from helping to make the population as safe as possible during this time of global crisis. Migrant people who are in the legal system cannot keep physically safe on their allowances because those allowances are not enough for them to eat healthily or buy appropriate cleaning materials. Many are living in accommodation where it is impossible for them to socially isolate.
People who are destitute or undocumented fear what will happen to them if they identify themselves. They cannot access healthcare, emergency shelter and food. Or report or seek protection from domestic violence, rape, exploitation and other abuses – the levels of which are already rising.
One of the signatories to the Open Letter, All African Women’s Group, said:
“Many of us are living in dangerous and abusive conditions, either in slum asylum hostels or as unwelcome guests in other people’s homes. We need money of our own and the right to stay. Now is the time for the government to take practical measures to prevent infection. Now is not a time for racism, segregation, enforced destitution or a hostile environment for anyone. We will only survive if everyone has status in the UK and can get food, healthcare and housing.”
Black Women’s Rape Action Project added: “We know that domestic violence has soared but what remains hidden is the violence and exploitation against women seeking asylum, or with no status, who have been left dependant on others for their survival. Women must have the right to stay and an independent income and housing so they can be safe.”
ATD Fourth World UK said: "Now, more than ever, it is imperative to ensure that the most vulnerable of us are protected. Those in immigration limbo are overlooked, unsupported and left to struggle; the COVID 19 pandemic once again shows the fragility of their existence and we call for them to receive the care and attention we all deserve, not just now, but always.
"Although we are glad to see some public policy measures being taken to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on people in deep poverty, we are reminded that it is only on the ground that it is possible to measure that impact and to understand whether policies are actually reaching their intended beneficiaries. Expertise by experience is essential to getting the response right, as demonstrated by this Open Letter."
Fizza Qureshi, CEO of Migrant Rights’ Network: "At a time of an unprecedented public health crisis, we need this government to react with a humane response so no migrant fears accessing healthcare, or any other service they need. MRN along with others urges the UK government to offer legal status to all undocumented migrants, and those awaiting a decision on their immigration claim, and on public health grounds because everyone deserves safety and protection during these difficult times."
Lucky Khambule, co-ordinator of MASI – Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, says: “Since the start of the Covid19, MASI has always been critical of the way the Department for Justice and Equality responded in assuring the safety of those seeking asylum and living in direct provision. Currently there are over 60 direct provision centres and emergency hotels accommodating, with about 7,500 asylum seekers in the Ireland. For the past 14 months there has been an increase in the number of new applications and this has made the government accommodate people beyond centres’ capacity.
“The life style and living arrangements in direct provision is a recipe for disaster and should there be an outbreak in any of the centres, it would be very difficult for the department to cope. There is no social distancing as advised by the HSE, it is impossible for those living in direct provision as they are forced to share the same space with no privacy as all.
“Even the suggested on site isolation rooms are a joke as they put six to eight beds in one room very close to each other. We have been proactive in letting the Justice Minister and his colleagues know our concerns and made suggestions on what the immediate attention should be. On the 18th March 2020, we wrote to the Minister and amongst other things, we requested that all vulnerable people above 60 years and on long term illnesses be moved immediately from the direct provision set up and housed in a safer environment.”
Dr Rhetta Moran, from RAPAR, added: “Deeds not words save lives and create futures worth living.”
Please contact admin(at)rapar.org.uk for more information.
RE: ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE, HOUSING AND FOOD FOR ALL
cc: UK Home Secretary and UK Health Secretary,
Irish Health Secretary and Irish Minister for Justice and Equality,
All UK MPs,
All Members of the Irish Parliament (the Oireachtas),
All Leaders and CEOs of Local Authorities and Health Services in the UK,
All CEOs of Councils and Health Services in Ireland,
Professor Neil Ferguson, Imperial College, London,
Dr. Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Ireland
Prof Ruairi Brugha, Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology, Ireland
27th March 2020 (Signatory list updated on 3rd August 2020)
RE: ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE, HOUSING AND FOOD FOR ALL
We call upon the British and Irish States to act immediately so that all undocumented, destitute and migrant people in the legal process in both the UK and Ireland are granted Status Now, as in Leave to Remain. In this way every human, irrespective of their nationality or citizenship can access healthcare, housing, food and the same sources of income from the State as everyone else.
Everyone has the right to be in an environment where they can follow the Public Health directives necessary to limit COVID19 viral transmission to the absolute minimum and to care for themselves, their loved ones and their living and working communities.
It is imperative - being in everyone’s best interests - that the basic needs of all are met.
People living in extreme poverty and/or destitution and/or without immigration status in the UK or Ireland and/or without access to the NHS or the Irish Health System:
Please direct your responses, as a matter of urgency obviously, to admin(at)rapar.org.uk
ORGANISATION SIGNATORIES (as at 3rd August 2020)
All African Women’s Group
ATD Fourth World
BASW Cymru - British Association of Social Workers, Cymru
BFAWU - Bakers’, Food & Allied Workers Union
Birmingham Asylum & Refugee Association
Black Women’s Rape Action Project
Boabab Women's Project
CARAG (Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group)
Central England Lipreading Support Trust
Communities For All
Coventry Against Racism
Croydon Refugee & New Communities Forum
Doncaster Conversation Club
DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts
Eagles Wings (Bury)
EHID - End Heathrow Immigration Detention
EYST Wales – Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team, Wales
FAF, GAF, LAFA and Feminist Fightback
Filipino Domestic Workers Association -UK (FDWA-UK)
GDWG - Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group
Highly Skilled Migrants UK
Inini Initiative Ltd
Iran Socialist Alternative (London)
Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
Kanlungan Filipino Consortium,
Labour Campaign for Free Movement
Legal Action for Women
Leicester Quaker Meeting of Sanctuary
Lichfield City of Sanctuary
Lichfield Quaker Meeting
Lichfield Refugee Aid
Manchester City of Sanctuary
MASI – Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland
Medical Professionals in the UK Seeking Registration
Middle East Solidarity Magazine
Migrants Rights Network
Migrants Rights Centre Ireland
MOJUK - Miscarriages of Justice UK
MRRC - Manchester Refugee Rights Collective
No-Deportations - Residence Papers for All
No Impunity for the Congolese State - NICS
Payday Men's Network
Positive Action in Housing
Poverty Truth Community
Public Interest Law Centre
QARN - Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network
Race on the Agenda
RADAR - Rochdale Action on Destitution with Asylumseekers and Refugees
RAPAR - Refugee and Asylum seeker Participatory Action Research
Reclaim the Power
South East Asian Centre (London)
Stand Up to Racism
St Nicholas of Tolentino RC Church
The BaRE UK
Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association
Wai Yin Society
Women Against Rape
Women of Colour/Global Women's Strike
You can download a word version of the Open Letter, updated on 3rd August, here
Call for refugee Doctors to be fast-tracked into the NHS- two years after RAPAR launched a similar campaign.
12th April 2020 Update
Our Campaign leader, Professor Esmail was quoted yesterday in the New York Times. Today he tells us:
"The COVID-19 pandemic had laid bare the reliance of the NHS on migrant labour. Nearly 40% of doctors are from BME backgrounds (the majority qualifying abroad). They are currently bearing the brunt of the burden in terms of deaths in the workforce probably because they work in the most deprived and therefore under resourced parts of the NHS. When this emergency is over the sacrifice of these people should be acknowledged and the contribution of all BAME staff to the NHS recognised and rewarded. The NHS represents the best of Britain because it is so international and diverse."
Refugee doctors say:
"LET US WORK TO HELP CORONAVIRUS PATIENTS IN THE UK"
More refugee doctors have come forward to offer their skills to the NHS during the increasingly grim battle with the Coronavirus pandemic.
Two years ago, RAPAR joined refugee doctors to launch a campaign which called for the unrealistically high levels of English language testing to be reviewed and relaxed so that many more highly qualified doctors, nurses and other medical professionals could work in the NHS.
See ITV news item this week which features a Syrian doctor.
The group of medical professionals we have been campaigning with have signed an Open Letter sent by 37 organisations to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Nearly 1,000 individuals, groups and organisations have signed the petition.
Dr Aneez Esmail, Professor of General Practice at Manchester University Medical School, has backed our campaign from the start. Read his article here in the medical magazine Pulse.
"It is deeply disappointing that just as the NHS faces an acute shortage of medics, hundreds of doctors, including potential GPs, are being excluded from joining the workforce because of an arbitrary change in English language proficiency standards.
At a press conference to raise this issue, I spoke to four doctors in the audience all of whom are legally entitled to live and work in the UK because they are refugees or have been given leave to remain.
They are all highly experienced having worked in Sudan, Iraq and the Congo in very difficult situations. They spoke fluent English – conversing easily with me as they explained their background. Yet none are practising as doctors in the UK because they failed the first hurdle in trying to get registration to work as doctors in the UK.
Current regulations require them to score 7.5 in the International Language Testing System (IELTS). All had previously sat the exam and scored 7, but in 2016 the GMC raised the bar for people wanting to register for the next stage of the registration process – which requires doctors seeking UK registration to sit the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Boards (PLAB) test – to 7.5.
The test does not reflect the skills required for good communication in medicine
It might seem an inconsequential change, but this has barred hundreds of doctors seeking registration in the UK. The IELTS test is graded in bands and skills are assessed in speaking, listening, reading and writing. At Band 7 the person’s standard of English is considered ‘Good’ – meaning they would handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning. To give an idea of the standard, students from non-English language speaking countries wishing to study in the UK would be required to have an IELTS score between Bands 6 and 7 by most Russell Group universities.
It is essential that everyone seeking to practice medicine in the UK has excellent communication skills – it’s a central skill in medicine and it is right that language skills are assessed and only those shown to speak English at a high standard should be allowed to register and practice medicine.
But the IELTS is designed for academic study and does not properly reflect the skills required for good communication in medicine. It’s partly in recognition of this that the GMC has recently introduced the Occupational Exam Test (OET), which more accurately reflects the level of English needed to practice medicine.
The OET was developed in Australia (where the IELTS requirement is Band 7) and many doctors believe it will be a better assessment of English required to practice medicine here. However, the exam is prohibitively expensive for doctors in this situation, costing three times as much as the IELTS – which many have already paid to sit.
Interestingly, the UK regulatory bodies for pharmacists and dentists set the level of IELTS at 7 and 6.5 respectively.
In the UK, we face a shortage of doctors in a range of specialties including general practice. We have a group of doctors, the majority of them highly experienced, who have ended up in the UK and who are desperate to contribute their skills and expertise.
Setting the standard at an arbitrary level (there is no evidence that having a score of 7.5 as opposed to 7 makes the doctor any safer or better) is not the best way of determining whether someone is able to practice medicine. This approach subordinates people to policy, denying employment to a group of people who almost certainly have the experience and talent to help us deal with an acute shortage of doctors.
We need to support this group of doctors through tests that we have set – most of them legitimate – so that we can use their skills to contribute to the NHS. We could help by offering dedicated training to learn the conversational skills required for medicine in the OET, offering loans so that they can attend the courses to help them do this. We should also avoid setting arbitrary test scores that don’t test the specific requirement for language skills for the practice of medicine.
This is a waste of talent that we need now. Amongst the many hundreds of doctors caught in this state of limbo, there are doubtless a large number of GPs who with the right help and training could help relieve the acute shortage that we are facing, rather than waiting for the promised 5,000 new GPs in five years’ time."
For more information about the campaign see here.
On 26th March 2020, RAPAR blogged:
As tonight’s call went out for the country to Clap For the NHS, health workers and MPs were clamouring for the Government to fast track the registration of refugee doctors in the UK.
Instead of using their skills to care for people who have been hospitalised because of the Covid-19 pandemic, refugee doctors and other health professionals have been forced to work as taxi drivers and in takeaways because the re-accreditation process in the UK is lengthy, expensive and onerous.
Dr Mohammad Haqmal, a refugee from Afghanistan, told The Guardian newspaper that his background in public health and specifically HIV meant he had a lot to offer in the fight against the pandemic. He works in medical research but did not go through the re-accreditation process as a doctor because of the difficulties and expense. He knows many qualified doctors who are driving taxis and working as shopkeepers when they would rather be treating patients.
Under pressure and with an increasing number of health workers falling ill themselves, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he will look at the proposal to expedite qualified doctors from overseas into the NHS.
Yet just over two years ago, when NHS cuts continued to threaten the lives of patients and the well-being of health workers, RAPAR worked with a group of medical professionals to launch a campaign calling for the registration process to be less complicated, less onerous and less expensive.
Five hundred medical professionals signed up to the campaign and hundreds more signed a petition. Despite coverage in the medical press and widespread lobbying of MPs, the call was ignored – to the frustration of the refugee doctors themselves and leading NHS medical staff.
Dr Aneez Esmail, Professor of General Practice at the University of Manchester’s Medical School, backed the campaign and said at the time: “When the NHS is really desperate for extra staff, it is strange that there is a failure to recognise the contribution that refugee doctors and other medical professionals from outside the UK can make.”
Dr Hiba Alzamzamy, one of the campaign founders, produced research exposing the unrealistically high level of English testing set by the General Medical Council – one of the barriers to re-accreditation. She said: “We are highly skilled people who want to help patients at a time when the NHS is in crisis.”
It has taken a pandemic for the Government to be forced to listen to that plea.
For more information about the campaign see here.
This article is going out across Europe this afternoon.
Pressure is mounting for meaningful actions by States to ensure that everyone can practice all appropriate public health behaviours that will protect themselves from either acquiring or passing on the COVID-19 virus. RAPAR will be blogging again later today.
On Monday the Guardian Newspaper carried RAPAR’s call and also highlighted the letter sent last Friday from 50 organisations in the UK, including RAPAR, to the Chief Executive of every Local Authority in England. On the same day, last Friday, MASI sent a letter to Ireland's Minister for Justice. Both the English and the Irish letters call upon Statutory Bodies to implement measures to protect lives.
Today, our blog comes from an anonymous writer and young artists currently living inside Ireland’s “Architecture of Containment”.
“This morning I finally put on a brave face and I allowed my children out in the back garden. Even though I have my own front door and back garden, I feel I owe every other person in the premises the duty of care, hence I stay away completely from any unnecessary gathering.
That said, the panic, anxiety and the feeling of "what next" can be smelt in the atmosphere down here in the centre, reason being that we woke up to a news that two asylum seekers have now been diagnosed with the novel corona virus. These people happens to live in a hostel styled accommodation where up to six people are accommodated in the same room, share a communal bathroom and eat in the canteen. Residents are not allowed to bring food back to their rooms. In another hostel, the management suggested that residents stopped eating in the canteen and are enjoined to bring their own plates to get food from the canteen.
In an extreme case of taking pre-emptive measures to curb the risk of contamination, the management in an accommodation centre have instructed that any resident who goes to work should not return to the centre. This therefore means that residents who work in the healthcare sectors have to quit their jobs or seek alternative housing for themselves. Suffice to say that they are not entitled to any benefit from the Irish government. In another accommodation, residents are advised to limit their movement to their rooms, they are not allowed to take intermittent breaks or go out for a breath of fresh air.
As at yesterday, there has been a call for the Irish Government to move vulnerable people out of the direct provision centres and provide a suitable space where they can safely self isolate. There are pregnant women, elderly people with severe health conditions, children with underlying medical conditions as well as newborns whose immunity is too delicate to be exposed to an environment where they are susceptible to being infected.
Lastly, our thoughts are with fellow asylum seekers who are stuck in emergency accommodation centres across the country, they should be moved out of hotel rooms and given proper, decontaminated and safe space to stay.
In solidarity with people seeking asylum across the country, and across the sea...”
THERE IS NO SOCIAL DISTANCING HERE
See the latest post from the Detained Voices blog which highlights issues in detention centres across the UK. This particular post is a vivid description of living in the shadow of Covid 19 from a detainee in Brook House Immigration Removal Centre near Gatwick Airport.
By Sima, from Iran.
These days I receive text messages and phone calls from friends and members of community to check if I am doing OK. I live on my own and I don’t drive. Plus, I am an outgoing person with a busy schedule of back to back meetings during the day and visiting theatres in the evenings. So my life must be dull and depressing right now.
But I tell them I’m OK, and actually enjoying the quarantine life: I can now stop chasing
money for a bit and go back to be a writer and get better at cooking. Then I post pictures of the bread and soups I have made to impress them and make their mouth water. This one was my second try; not too bad.
A friend sent me a website called Quarantine Kitchen by a Tehran-based artist who draws portraits of her friends preparing new recipes, based on the stories they told her of their experiments under quarantine.
Iranian cuisine is famous for its richness and the sourness of its drinks and sauces. I have tried them on my British friends and it’s entertaining watching their nose curl up and their eyes rolling eyes as if they are being tortured.
Living in quarantine is pretty much like living as an asylum seeker. The difference is you don’t have money to indulge yourself in different cooking styles when you are seeking asylum and you can’t watch TV simply because you can’t afford the licence. If you are lucky enough to be recognised as a ‘legal asylum seeker’ by the government, you will receive £35 per week to survive. If you are not legal, you are not receiving anything. You will live on canned food donated by charities and sleep in the basement of a friend’s house or in a garage/ under a bridge. Tens of thousands of people are living in this condition in the UK. Of course the same also applies to UK citizens, the many homeless people who are sleeping in shop doorways, on park benches and friends’ sofas. Or to those people on Universal Credit who are struggling to live.
So why should I complain? Compared to the old times, I live a luxury quarantine life right now. I have a laptop that I can put on my belly while writing as I lie down on my bed drinking my coffee with a piece of 75% chocolate. I actually had a small laptop during my asylum life which was gifted to me by a US friend who encourage me to write my story. I started writing my autobiography and this is how I became a creative writer. I remember I used to type 16 hours a day because nobody believed my story and I was called a liar by the Home Office and my case was turned down by an immigration judge for he thought it was not genuine and I was far too clever. ( I used to think judges make decisions based on evidence and facts, not based on their thoughts? Maybe Iran is different)
Anyway, my daily routine is :
- Having a lie-in every single day cos the world goes on without me, I am not the centre of the universe. It’s better actually if we do absolutely nothing for a while because what we have done so far is damaging to our planet earth and killing animals. So better stay put.
- Checking on social media to see what friends have been up to, if they are doing all right. Sometimes writing apocalyptic stories on my Facebook to freak out people! The recent one was a dystopian future where Europeans are seeking asylum in Africa and the Middle East because many countries will have gone under water due to global warming (and Europeans definitely are not welcome in Africa and India and Iran)
Make breakfast and eat it without having to rush.
- Do a few hours work as I run a company and I manage social media and all the paper work! This is the only bad thing about quarantine life.
- Watching cooking channels on YouTube and choosing a new recipe for dinner. If I need ingredients, I go to the corner shop and if I can’t find them I just improvise. I can’t walk around looking for spices and veg and risk spreading the virus because I am too selfish to have a plain dinner. Adding a sour sauce will do the job.
- I make phone calls to my family in Iran to check if they are OK. The virus is spreading across the world and it seems that governments all over the world care about rich corporations not the people. There is nothing I can do except ask them to take care of themselves and help vulnerable people.
- I spend evenings reading books, rewriting my play, and contemplating my art work and what I can do as an artist to raise awareness and to help the young generation to build a better future. We, the old generations, have messed up! Maybe it’s a wake-up alarm. There is much to learn from a microscopic virus.
We should use this pause to reflect on ourselves. Hopefully the world will definitely be a different place after this.
In the last 48 hours RAPAR members who are destitute - no secure shelter, no money and no right to legal work - have been:
... "Send applications via post or email"
... "We have decided to pause face to face substantive interviews"
without any guidance on how they are supposed to access computers to email or printers to print paperwork, or to pay for any of the above, or postage. It's no surprise then that, just now, led by the Runnymede Trust, race equality and migrant rights organisations have begun to call for independent review into institutional racism in the Home Office.
This is destitute RAPAR Member Jenny DaCosta from the Democratic Republic of Congo, this morning, on the steps of the Friends Meeting House, the site of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre.
He accepted a small amount of cash from RAPAR because "Yesterday I had to speak with the court service to find out if my hearing is postponed to a later date, taking into account the period we are going through, to my great surprise I was invited to appear in court on the date initially planned because no change or modification is planned, the hearing will indeed take place. So I had to contact the organisation ... ".
After giving Jenny a small amount of cash this RAPAR volunteer drove out of the city centre and, while they were waiting at a red traffic light, photographed this homeless man near Piccadilly Station...
Following the publication of our first response, which specifies how we are beginning to offer support, RAPAR is now calling upon the State to suspend all detention and deportation activities, including legal processes. We also call upon the State to extend an invitation to all undocumented, displaced and destitute people, i.e. those most acutely vulnerable to COVID-19, to come forward for safe housing , without fear of being snatched or locked up, and so that they may contribute, openly, to making the population as safe as possible.
Obviously, no one will be able to act in their own - and everyone else’s - best interests if their basic needs are unmet. RAPAR Chair of Trustees, Dr Rhetta Moran says:
“We are acutely aware of the risk COVID-19 poses both to our Members and to the wider population. This is why we are reaching out in this way, right now. Our 2010 position that questioned that Government’s ‘Big Society’ a decade ago is being borne out. There is, hopefully, still time to act with compassion and wisdom.
At last night’s televised press conference, the Government insisted that social contact be minimised immediately and, at the same time, insisted that our schools remain open. This is not rational. It is physical contact that needs to be minimised, not social, educational, legal or political communication. It is within our capacities to offer these resources to one another while minimising physical contact - let’s do the possible.”
Physical – but NOT social, emotional, legal and/or political - interaction should be at a minimum from now until the virus threat has passed.
We need to lead and act to protect all our Members, especially those with compromised immunities for any reason, older Members, volunteer Members who regularly interact with one another, paid Members and anyone else that we, as RAPAR Members, may be in contact with.
This is the heart of our work. From now on RAPAR members doing Casework will aim to do as much of that work remotely, using the phone and internet to communicate. As we know, all our casework files are on Mothership and our best practice is to store our data, exclusively, within the Mothership intranet which is not accessible remotely. However, in these current circumstances, with our commitment to minimising physical interaction and in order to continue casework, our Casework Leads will be taking full copies of casefiles on specific cases off site as needed, and distributing that work remotely, as necessary, with Members and Volunteers. The overwhelming majority of our Members have phones/smartphones/i-pads and/or even access to computers so that joint casework may take place. See section 3. Groupwork for step by step on how to set yourself up on zoom.
Caseworkers may need to go to the office, periodically, See section 4. Using the Office Protocol to download/upload casework files so that they can access the information from home and maintain our Casework e-file in an up-to date form.
2. Members Supporting ‘Vulnerable’ Members and Their Networks
Do not come to the office unless it is essential. Accessing health care is already very difficult for people seeking asylum and destitute people with underlying health conditions are most at risk from the coronavirus.
Do you, or any of your friends who are destitute, have any of the following?
If yes, in the first instance, EMAIL rhetta.moran(at)rapar.org.uk or text 07776264646 (do not phone to speak with someone, text) with a short message saying:
3. Group Work
Individual Members, small and even larger RAPAR groups may not be able to meet physically but we can use whatsapp, facetime and zoom so that we can continue to see each other and be able to talk while seeing each other:
1. Download the zoom app onto your phone or go onto the zoom website on a laptop.
2. Sign up - you will need an email address and a name (you can use anyname). It will ask you to create a password.
3. When you log in with your new account you will see several options:
'Schedule meeting' creates a link which you can share via whatsapp if you are planning a meeting in the future. For example you can schedule 'casework co-learning' zoom for 1pm Wednesday. It will create a link you can share via whatsapp or email. The people who receive this link will be able to join your meeting.
4. If you receive a link from someone else just click - 'join meeting'.
5. In a Zoom meeting you can see a grid with everyone’s faces and you should be able to hear everyone. Sometimes this takes a bit of time and you need good wifi or mobile date connection. It is then possible to have a meeting as you would in person. It is useful to have a facilitator and to ask people to raise their hands when they want to speak because if two people speak at once it is very difficult to hear. Happy Zooming!
4. Using the Office
Wherever possible, work should be done from home and meetings and group work conducted via WhatsApp or Zoom or by Phone. We do however need to check the post regularly. The office will remain accessible to people who really need to use it, but we all need to follow some simple public health procedures.
The office surfaces have been deep cleaned this morning (16th March).
From now on please follow these procedures:
ON TUESDAY 17TH MARCH 2020, RAPAR WILL BE ISSUING A PUBLIC STATEMENT ABOUT WHAT WE CONSIDER TO BE THE BEST WAY TO REACT TO THE CORONAVIRUS SO THAT OUR MEMBERS AND THEIR NETWORKS CAN BE SAFE AND WELL.
On the Leap Year Day of 2020, we approached the Edge and in a bid to awaken our own and each other’s creativity.
For RAPAR, I sit between Ola Mustafa, a stunning mother of three children, aged between 11 and six, who claimed asylum from Nigeria almost as long ago as the birth of her youngest child, and who waits for the State to decide: is it accepting her right to make herself and her children safe? Alongside over 200 other people seeking asylum, she lives in Ballyhaunis’s former Convent, now her ‘Direct Provision’ home, privately run on behalf of the Irish Government .
To my left is Farah Elle a singer songwriter who will complete our discussion with her performance of two hauntingly beautiful compositions that fuse Libyan and Irish streams from her culture clash into a unique river of sound.
Our Facilitator, Dr. Christopher Kissane, poses the question “What is our experience of migration like, in Ireland?” and Ola shares first. Her children are bussed away to school. Her description of her feelings about not being able to bring and meet them from there is pain-filled. It crystallizes how the asylum system, in the UK and in Ireland, debars the People who have fled here from those taken for granted public spaces: like the school gates where Adults meet Others who are both different from, and the same as, Themselves. There are 47 children, excluding babies, living in the Ballyhaunis Direct
Provision Centre with their Families, but only one child goes to the local school. Alongside being denied the right to work for money - and pay tax and insurance like everyone else who works legally – and the very existence of Direct Provision, this educational apartheid separates the Person Seeking Asylum from the indigenous Irish... or English... or Scottish... or Welsh, and away from shared places where We may experience our Humanity together.
And Farah, as she touches her heart, describes how creative expression springs from her need to unpack some aspect of oppression that has become internalised within her. In so doing, she helps us to think about how each of us might find a way to release and convert our own alienations into creative visions. Who wants a future where all the children go together to their local school and all their parents can witness them,
running in and out, with smiling faces? I do.
Prophetically, when keynote speaker Diarmaid Ferriter posed his morning question about the notorious Mother and Baby homes of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s Ireland, “What sustained the architecture of containment?”, he offered us a framework for beginning our afternoon interrogation of a 21st century version: Direct Provision. While on this very same leap year day, from one pillar of its British counterpart, the privatised Detention Centre industry, the story is about to break of a man from Jamaica, partially blind and left with an untreated broken ankle in a cell for four days.
The roots of colonialism and imperialism burrow so deeply. Writing from my paternal family’s ‘Homeplace’, how fortunate am I to stand and look upon on the fruits of my ancestor’s labour? The Hawthorn Hedge that I know my Grandmother planted. The world where all such Hedgerows are honoured and their Planters’ Descendants stand free to marvel at the hope, shelter, and porous boundary that the Hedgerow represents, wherever it is: that’s where I want to live. It is a very different world from this global-climate-biodiversity crisis breeding fascism within every vacuum that we strive to fill.
RAPAR thanks Ireland’s Edge for holding the space of the extraordinary Jackie Clarke Museum so that we might sit, together, at the Edge of what Mayo County Council Chief executive Peter Hynes described as a Hilltop. It’s the Edge that only exists on the Hilltop for that hair’s breadth before we tumble or we fly, the Edge that affords us the optimum perspective. Where next? Whose coming? Thank you.
The views expressed are personal. Dr Rhetta Moran, RAPAR Chair of Trustees.