Ireland: Asylum Seekers and Refugees
in Melatu Uche Okorie, This Hostel Life (Dublin, Skein Press: 2018), pp. 61-81
7 Pages Posted: 25 May 2018
Date Written: May 15, 2018
Far from the land of one hundred thousand welcomes, Melatu Uche Okorie’s work shines a light onto issues that for far too long have been swept under the carpet. Irish society’s ability to condemn, institutionalise, and castigate persons due to differences is ever present in 2018. Ireland for generations has been a country of emigration. The experience of the emigrant has been told in word and verse; the mythical Irish emigrant emerging as pining for home, or getting along with life in their new-found land or mapping the struggles and adversities the person succumbed to or overcame. Ireland did not experience any post-World War II inward migration. It was only during the 1990s that any appreciable number of migrants came to Ireland. This question of ‘who belongs’ has been an underlying current of debates within Irish society. This was most startlingly confronted in the 2004 Citizenship Referendum. Melatu’s characters in ‘Under the awning’ discuss these questions of belonging, asking are children born in Britain, British, children born in Australia, Australians, children born in Ireland, Irish. Yet, in law the answer to this for transnational families is often no – these children are not citizens of where they are born or where they belong. The Referendum saw the right of all children to Irish citizenship where born on the island of Ireland withdrawn. The referendum campaign took place in a sea of hostility, where the Irish state was seen as under an existential threat, with ‘illegal’ crossings via the birth canal viewed as an issue of significant public comment and decision. This feeling of not belonging, of being an outsider, of challenging or accepting the status quo is threaded throughout Melatu’s work. This piece seeks to provide some political and legal context to issues that arise from some of Melatu’s stories, to provide some sense of understanding of the quagmires that arise when seeking protection in a land far from home.
Keywords: Asylum, refugee, subsidiary protection, citizenship, direct provision, Ireland
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