The human and economic costs of deportation

Today sees the launch of a campaign by Anti-Deportation Ireland against the system of direct provision and the practice of deportation. Anti-Deportation Ireland (ADI) is a national network of activists, asylum seekers, refugees, community workers, trade unionists, and academics who have come together to campaign against forced deportation in Ireland, and for the abolition of the direct provision system.

The campaign features a detailed report on the human and economic costs of deportation, and testimonies from people who have lived in, or continue to exist in, the shadow of the system. The executive summary of the report, and some of these testimonies, are published below.

Preliminary Report on Deportation in Ireland: The human and economic costs of deportation

The deportation of so-called failed asylum seekers and illegal migrants, like their detention and dispersal, has become an integral part of migration policies in Ireland, reflecting a wider European trend towards treating asylum and migration as a security issue which requires forms of deterrence.

While deportation has been legitimised as a cornerstone of immigration control and naturalised as a routine procedure, this report for Anti-Deportation Ireland highlights the human costs of deportation, focusing on the trauma, suffering, unjust and brutal treatment experienced by deportees and their families.

Deportation is an extremely traumatic experience for those who are forcibly removed and for their families, friends and members of the communities into which they have integrated. The conditions under which people are deported are inhumane and degrading, often involving the use of violent methods of restraint and psychological intimidation. One in five people deported from Ireland since the start of 2010 were children. Deporting children, who may have been born in Ireland and never been to the countries they are being returned to, is a hardly justifiable practice.

Deportations are ineffective. The argument that they ensure the integrity of the immigration regime is highly speculative. The gap between deportation orders issued and deportation orders effected not only illustrates this, but also shows that an increasing number of people are living in precarious conditions of ‘deportability’ and experiencing its attendant consequences in terms of lack of rights, anxiety, stress and inability to carry on with one’s life.

Deportations are hugely costly. The overall cost of removing 280 persons from Ireland in 2011 was in excess of €1 million. The lack of independent monitoring procedures also raises serious concerns in relation to how deportations are carried out.

The lack of follow-up or tracking procedures means that there is very limited knowledge of what happens to deportees after they are deported. However some journalists and scholars have provided evidence of deportees experiencing extreme socio-economic marginalisation, mental health and substance abuse issues, and even torture and incarceration in the countries to which they are returned.

International reports have criticised Ireland for detaining people awaiting deportation and/or for immigration related reasons in ordinary prisons, questioning the legal basis of such practice, the lack of legal safeguards for immigration detainees and their treatment in detention. There is very limited scope to challenge deportation decisions in Ireland because there is no independent appeals body. Further, the practice of deporting individuals who may have an EU or Irish spouse/partner constitutes a breach of the EU free movement directive.

Despite the State’s claims that the direct provision system provides the best value for money, all international and national research available is consistent in showing that the system violates asylum seekers’ basic rights to housing, family life, food, health, work and education.  Considering that the system fails to ensure an adequate standard of living the level of expenditure associated with it is unacceptable.

Those who have experienced the system have chosen to recount their experiences in different ways.

Aisha Yusuff wrote of the pain inflicted on her family by the deportation of her husband:

“I reside in Drishane Castle in Millstreet Accomodation Centre with my two children ages four and two, both born in Ireland. I arrived in Ireland in July 2008 with my husband to seek asylum. We were given deportation letters by the justice system a year later. The letters explained that as a family we were not to be separated and would be deported together.

We were asked to continually report to the GNIB office in Dublin so that our removal from the state could be facilitated. We did this for over a year. We would be asked at times to present ourselves twice a week in the rain or snow, and we were mostly there to swap letters of a new return date. My husband and I were really frustrated at this stage as we had to drag our kids to and from Dublin, so we were relieved when the immigration police finally showed up at our hostel in December 2010.

We had our bags packed awaiting their arrival, but to our surprise the immigration police said they were here just for my husband. They only had his travel documents. From people's stories about deportation, we knew it was best not to argue with them. As my husband was been taken away, my daughter, who was almost two then, started crying for her daddy, and that she wants to go with him. As fate would have it, my husband was returned back to Ireland because the plane was faulty. I remember the first thing he said to me was that “God doesn’t want me to miss our daughter's birthday.”

He was deported a month and a half later. As a result my daughter that started talking at nine months, stopped talking. She used to be very bubbly and attached to her daddy and now only just copies her brother who has just started talking. She can’t really understand where he went and why he is not coming back. Life without my husband is semi hell, I never thought I could survive without him and was like a mad woman for the first six months after his departure. I had serious anxiety over leaving my room, I was always scared that they (the children) might hurt themselves while I am away or that they might get hurt outside with only me watching over them.

The only thing I can say right now is that I cannot wait to be reunited with him, it been almost two years since he was separated from us, my two and a half year old son doesn’t know his daddy, he was six months when his dada left. We can’t wait 2 see him.

Uche Odinukwe reflects on the deportation of her friend Tom:

Tom was a good man, one who left his family to Ireland hoping to make them proud one day so they can hold their head in a crowd.

Over four years and still could not get humanitarian grounds to convince the dept that his disability and diminishing health, from his decaying right arm coupled with abuse and assault suffered in the mental institution in Ireland, is good reason to let him stay.

Over four years of complete waste. Can’t find a lawyer to view your case without money; free legal advice does not cover people like him with deportation order. It just doesn’t seem fair.

Going back to a wife he left heavy with child, with only the clothes on his back, now more impoverished, with zero self esteem he meets with his son for the first time.

After all these years of being treated as a criminal in a holding area/prison, waiting for six weeks, waiting to be deported and given €19.10 a week in a direct provision centre for all those years.

Can't really cry because I didn't get the chance to say goodbye. Deportation is like cancer that eats deep into the minds and hearts of victims.

He did it. He survived the horror of deportation, some others don’t survive it. His life will never be the same. I am committed to this struggle to save others from all that you went through. But we miss him and I'm sure he misses us too.

Haider Altegani puts his flight from Sudan in political context:

The Sudan does not have any problems, because problems can be solved, what is going on in Sudan is far more beyond (any) problem.

Once I arrived in Ireland, I thought all my problems are left behind, and I did not think that I will start a new hell.

When Sudan was granted its independence from Britain in 1956, we all cheered and thought that our problems will go with the invader. But a year before the British army left Sudan a civil war started in 1955 it divided the country and officially lasted until 2005 after the comprehensive peace agreement. However it left the country divided to two countries (Sudan and South Sudan, in 2011) .

We were happy that a war which left 2 million people killed and millions displaced had reached to the end. We were wrong. A new war started in the west of the country (Darfur). It was early summer 2003 when some Darfurians said, We fed up and it’s enough, those who do not believe the problems can be sorted by the politicians took the arms and started the revolution.

The bleeding did not stop at that point, economic conditions deteriorated relative to the share of oil between the north and south, leaving to the emergence of new border war in Abeiy. Some parties of Sudan did not hold, it exploded in parts of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile and other parts in the east.

For myself I truly believe that bullets and guns will not solve any problems but complicate it. After the suffering and pain, and like all those who reject injustice and inequality, I was thinking to leave the country, which represents my childhood and my youth.

I decided to leave the country looking for peaceful paradise and just to live in peace.

I came to Ireland to have an internal sense of life and future and that hope for the alternative homeland.

It was hot and nice, light breath coming from the east, and people passed by me, no one asked me who I am or what I am doing here, no police (terror), no fight of horses and camels, no air craft and bombs from above, no weeping, no crying of children, just ordinary people minding their own business and having their ordinary problems.

But is this the life that I dream of?

Ever since I came here, I sleep in the same bed with many, many others in my room, and all our differences culturally, religiously and academically. No right to one of us to move to another location unless causing a problem against the accommodation rules.

Since I came, I get 19.10 euro weekly as a benefit and I have to buy prescriptions not including in the medical card. I contribute in different ways, and I have to integrate with the society. My dream ever since I came is education, and scientific progress in my academic specialties, but all these dreams can come true when I get my result.

Ever since I came, I hesitate between lawyers, organizations and all those interested, so as to get that future I am looking for. All these things and I do not know for how long.

Do you know when? I am fed up.

Anti Deportation Ireland Preliminary Report