The campaign trail, asylum seekers, and access to Direct Provision centres

Posted On: May 15, 2014

Media Release, 15th May 2014

In light of the recent discussion about canvassers and the ban on gaining access to Direct Provision Centres, the Irish Refugee Council contacted RIA to see if any steps could be taken at this late stage to provide both candidates and asylum seekers the chance to engage with each other. RIA have now agreed to allow canvassers election leaflets in the centres, so that residents can, if they choose, access and read campaign materials, and become informed about campaign promises and issues. RIA has also invited canvassers to leave their contact details on such materials so that people can follow up with them if they so wish and provide details of any external meetings. A circular to this effect was sent to all centre managers on 14th May. This is a change on their position from 2008. RIA’s state that their reason for such a policy is not intended as a barrier to information or as an infringement on voting rights, but due to the nature of the system.

Sue Conlan, CEO of the IRC, said: “We strongly agree that people in Direct Provision should have the same access to information as the rest of us, but if a canvasser comes knocking on my front door, I have the choice to answer it or not, or to close the door if I want to. This basic right is not there for residents in Direct Provision. Although it is the only home that many asylum seekers have, this issue demonstrates the lack of control that they have over their own living space.”

Conlan continued: “We have made suggestions that for future local elections there could be a number of hustings organised inside centres, so that canvassers can access residents of Direct Provision in a more organised way. This would ensure that all parties and independents have a fair opportunity to speak with these constituents and likewise, that the residents have a chance to question the canvassers about their campaign promises and agendas. We hope that the interest of politicians in Direct Provision will continue after the election!”

The IRC’s statement on how such matters might be handled in the future is not an indication that we support the continuation of Direct Provision. We will continue to campaign for its end and replacement by a humane and supportive reception system as we outlined in a document released in December.

ENDS

Contact:
Caroline Reid, Communications Officer, caroline@irishrefugeecouncil.ie / 085 8585510

Notes to the editor:
Sue Conlan is available for interview

The updated circular:
Circular 2/14 Ref: 182/939/2008

To all Centre Managers
Distribution or display of party political leaflets, posters or circulars

I refer to my circular of 23 April, 2014 in the above.

The provisions of that circular still stand, with one variation as follows.

Candidates who call into centres may be allowed to drop off election leaflets to be picked up and read by residents if they so wish. This material may be left in a suitable designated area of the centre such as the reception desk. Candidates may, if they wish, place on the leaflets their contact details or details of political meetings outside the centre to which residents can be invited.

Noel Dowling
Principal
RIA

14 May, 2014

Circular 1/14 Ref: 182/939/2008

To all Centre Managers
Distribution or display of party political leaflets, posters or circulars

I am writing to re-affirm the position of the Reception and Integration Agency, previously expressed in my circular letters of 18 July, 2008 and 26 July, 2013, that an asylum accommodation centre under contract to RIA must remain a politically neutral environment for its residents.

To that end, centre managers must ensure that party political leaflets, posters or circulars are not displayed or circulated in their centres and that politically orientated meetings are not held there either.

Residents are entitled to their own political views and are, of course, free to communicate with political representatives. But in the same way that Public Service offices operate in a politically neutral environment, so also must accommodation centres be free from any party political associations.

Plainly, correspondence of any kind addressed to individual residents must be delivered to them. However, political leaflets or unaddressed envelopes cannot be distributed in the centre and nor can political posters be displayed. If such documentation is received through the post or hand delivered to the reception area, it should be returned to the sender accompanied by a copy of this circular.

_____________
Noel Dowling
Principal
RIA

23 April, 2014