By Sarah Mac Donald - 18 August, 2014
The system of direct provision for asylum seekers has been described as “dehumanising” by the Bishop of Elphin, who called on the Government to introduce “a more humane system” in the very near future.
In his address at the National Fleadh Cheoil in Sligo on Sunday, Bishop Kevin Doran warned that many who had come to Ireland seeking asylum were living on the fringes of society.
“We have, living among us, but on the fringes of our society, people who have come here seeking asylum. Like the Irish who have gone to England, Australia and the United States, they all have their own good reasons for being there,” he said.
“An insular society might be inclined to see their presence as a burden, but there is another way of looking at it,” Dr Doran suggested.
Asylum seekers bring “gifts which would normally be offered to their own society and which, for one reason or another, are now placed instead at the service of the host country,” he stated, in a reference to St John Paul II.
However, he cautioned that this assumed that those who came here are allowed to use their gifts.
Bishop Doran acknowledged that it is reasonable that the State makes a fair judgement as to whether or not those seek asylum should be given refugee status.
However, “is not reasonable that the process should go on for years” he warned.
“Nor is it fair that men, women and children should be required to live in conditions which prevent them from living a normal family life, developing their skills, or earning their own bread.”
Describing some asylum seekers’ circumstances as living “a half-life”, he said it was enough to “suck the music out of the soul of any human being.”
In a rebuke to the Government, the Bishop said it was “particularly cynical that, while imposing this kind of regime on asylum seekers here, the Irish government consistently appeals to the US government to offer an amnesty to illegal Irish immigrants in America.”
Speaking to CatholicIreland.net in Knock, Bishop Doran lamented that many in direct provision centres can spend four or five or more years waiting for a decision on their fate.
“With husbands, wives, children not allowed live a normal existence. Parents are not allowed to perform the normal parenting tasks like cooking a meal for their children. A decision on their application for asylum needs to be made without delay.”
He added, “I think the problem is a lot of these centres which are in existence around the country are really designed to prevent people from having an active part in the community in which they live. Which means that even if their case for asylum is recognised then after four or five years they have been institutionalised in these places.”
Bishop Doran also said that in recent years our economic difficulties had brought real suffering to many and, with that suffering, there had also been resentment.
Using a musical image, he said “there often seems to be a lack of harmony in our society. Instead of all the instruments working together, the different sectors seem to be in competition and sometimes in conflict.”
This discord was evident between labour and capital, between the public sector and the private sector, between the urban and the rural, he said.
Separately, in Knock on Sunday, where Bishop Doran was the main celebrant at the annual Elphin pilgrimage, the newly installed bishop said the characteristic spirit of our age is individualism.
“There is a tendency to relate to others in terms of what they can do for me. We are inclined to be consumers and our children are becoming consumers. This, if we are not careful, can even spill over into how we are in Church.”
He commented that in every parish there are people who give most generously of themselves, using their gifts in all kinds of service.
“But there are some who come only to be served, in much the same way that they would go to the local take-away. They are the people who talk about ‘my seat’ and ‘my Mass’ and who resist anything which does not suit them personally. They may be very pious people, but that is not what it means to be ‘in Christ’,” he criticised.
He underlined that he was not one of those people who look at the past through rose tinted spectacles.
“The past was marked by poverty, war and corruption, just as the present is. The centenary of the First World War is something to be marked with respect, but not celebrated,” he said.
However, he told the packed basilica that there were some good things about the past that it would be good for us to reclaim.
“There was, for example, a time when it was generally accepted that God, who is the source of life, was also the One who gave meaning to our human existence. We understood God be the end towards which human life, of its very nature, was directed.”
He said his first hope for the Church would be that we as Christians would remember who we are, to whom we belong and where we are going.
Bishop Doran addressed a crowd of over 5,000 pilgrims in Knock Basilica on Sunday afternoon.
Fr Richard Gibbons, parish priest of Knock, said the figures for this year’s nine-day novena had held up and that well over 130,000 and up to 150,000 people will have attended services and made pilgrimages by the time the novena comes to a close.
He said Knock was gearing up for the launch of his new programme of evangelisation and the overhaul of the basilica which would be announced in October.