Belfast Telegraph

Department accused of hypocrisy over Pride transport for asylum seekers

Posters have appeared in some Direct Provision centres offering those who would like to attend free transport.

The Department of Justice has been criticised over treatment of LGBT asylum seekers (Niall Carson/PA)
The Department of Justice has been criticised over treatment of LGBT asylum seekers (Niall Carson/PA)

The Department of Justice has been accused of hypocrisy for offering asylum seekers free transport to Dublin Pride.

Posters have appeared in some Direct Provision centres offering those who would like to attend the main parade free transport on Saturday.

Charities who work with asylum seekers have labelled the move cynical, as they claim the International Protection Office, under the Department of Justice have rejected claims by asylum seekers who base an application on their sexuality “on grounds that the applicant is not credible”.

Bulelani Mfaco, a spokesman from the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) said the department has failed LGBTQ refugees in the past.

“The Department of Justice and Equality is incredibly hypocritical when dealing with LGBT+ asylum seekers and asylum seekers in general,” he said.

“On LGBT+ asylum claims, we’ve had a number claims rejected by the International Protection Office on grounds that the applicant is not credible, implying they are lying about their sexual orientation.

“This year, MASI was shocked to receive an email from a solicitor acting on behalf of an asylum seeker, who was appealing an application that was rejected by the International Protection Office on the grounds that a queer woman was not credible.”

The charity also point to the treatment of Sylva Tukula, a transgender woman, who had lived in a Galway Direct Provision centre allocated for men, died in August 2018, and was buried in May without ceremony or prior notice to friends.

The Department of Justice apologised for the distress caused to her friends, who later discovered she had been buried by the State, despite requests to be kept informed so they could make their own arrangements.

Asylum seekers can be also asked to appear before the International Protection Appeals Tribunal where they can be interviewed in order to prove their sexual orientation and asylum claim, a practice widely condemned by charities.

The International Protection Appeals Tribunal often seeks confirmation of participation in LGBT+ activities for claims, and NGOs and community groups working with asylum seekers regularly write reference letters for individuals involved, a practice labelled “dehumanising” by those involved.

“We call upon all NGOs and community groups/organisations that work with asylum seekers and have to write confirmation letters for LGBT+ asylum seekers to condemn the practice of asking asylum seekers to prove their sexual orientation because that’s what happens in effect when people have to appeal first instance decisions,” Mr Mfaco added.

Direct Provision is the process of housing asylum seekers while their applications are processed.

There are over 6,000 asylum seekers currently in centres around Ireland. The system was designed as a short-term measure but many applicants are now experiencing longer and longer stays – which charities say is linked to declining physical and mental health, social isolation and self-esteem.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said: “The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) has offered to provide free transportation for any resident who wishes to attend the Pride Parade in Dublin this Saturday.

“The determination of claims is carried out by the International Protection Office who are independent in the performance of their international protection functions and who work closely with UNHCR Ireland.

“Any person claiming international protection on a qualifying ground must provide evidence to substantiate their claim.”

PA

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph