Undocumented Workers now looking after British Elders in Care Homes and Irish Carer workers still stuck in Direct Provision Centres
Today, a representative from a Filipino community organisation, which advocates on behalf of frontline nurses and care home workers in the UK, including undocumented workers who lost their jobs in the current crisis and who cannot access any State support, contacted RAPAR. Deaths attributed to the coronavirus have occurred among undocumented workers in the Filipino community.
The representative described how one such worker, Rose, forced to leave her care home job because of Home Office changes to requirements for visas for migrant care worker, is living in a British City with six other undocumented people in cramped accommodation. Rose is surviving from the money she is getting from the children of British elders who are paying her to go into the nursing home where their parents live to look after them.
No one outside of an environment where they can self isolate as needed, stay clean, and maintain social distancing has the power to follow the Public Health directives necessary to limit COVID19 viral transmission to the absolute minimum. Anyone can now sign the Open Letter petition, launched by 37 organisations across Ireland and the UK, with receipt now signed for at Downing Street and the Dublin offices of the Taoiseach, calling upon the UK Prime Minister and the Taoiseach of Ireland to use their vested powers to instruct the British and Irish States to act immediately and in all ways necessary so that ALL undocumented people, destitute people and migrant people in legal process in both the UK and Ireland are granted Status Now: Leave to Remain.
Also today, MASI (Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland) told RAPAR “People seeking asylum in Ireland who work as care givers are risking their lives to protect the Irish people and are still having to return to over-populated rooms in Direct Provision Centres. The number of people in the Centres who are presenting with COVID-19 symptoms keeps on growing, yet no one from the Irish Government is disclosing the number of people living in Direct Provision who are testing positive. We call on the Irish Government to house Carer Workers alongside everyone else currently in Direct Provision, in safe places from which they may continue their exceptional work caring for others.”
The Irish and British Governments have the power to enable undocumented people, immediately, to care and protect themselves, their loved ones and their living and working communities. RAPAR asks “When will they stop moving the deckchairs*, use their power and save lives?” (*move (the) deckchairs on the Titanic’: To partake in or undertake some task, activity, or course of action that will ultimately prove trivial or futile in its possible effect or outcome.
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.