Yesterday at 7pm, VDP Social Justice, the Students’ Union and passers-by joined together for a candle-lit vigil to commemorate refugees who have died at sea this year. The volunteers, who started lighting candles at 5pm, had over 1,000 candles lit on the steps of the Dining Hall. Walking through the dark, chilly front square, it was difficult to not be enticed by the warm glow of the Dining Hall steps infused with a hub of chattering people.
Róisín Ní Haicéid, Míde Power and Lile Donohoe, the organisers of VDP Social Justice, have decided this year to focus on educating people about direct provision as well as protesting its existence. Speaking to Trinity News, Ní Haicéid explained why events like these are important to VDP Social Justice “Not a lot of people know what direct provision is, or the negative impact direct provision has on the lives of asylum seekers, so having college events like refugee week opens up a much needed conversation about Irish refugee policy and provides students with ways they can get involved in changing this repressive system.”
Power spoke first, detailing the facts surrounding the issues facing asylum seekers and was critical of the European Union’s unfriendliness towards asylum seekers. Ní Haicéid followed with the poem Home by Warsan Shire; an evocative poem which outlined the brutal truths facing asylum seekers “you have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat, unless the water is safer than the land”.
Lile Donohoe spoke last, reading aloud the experience of Poppy Russell who had worked with refugees over the summer in Lesbos. With refugee camps being more comfortably associated as something far away on the telly, it was hard not to be affected by the descriptions. As they looked through red life jackets in the hope of finding a survivor they searched, in particular, for the small life jackets of children. The piece highlighted, however, that while children carry the most hope, they are also the most vulnerable. Russell indicated the choice of red for #REDOUT as it is not only a colour associated with danger like life jackets and blood, it also associated with hope and safety, like a fire engine. Ending on a note of hope, all that was left to do was blow out the candles.
Today is the last day of refugee week and organisers are encouraging students and staff to wear red for #REDOUT as a symbol of solidarity with asylum seekers in direct provision. At 5.30pm there will be a group photo of all those dressed in red in the Front Square followed by a refugee activist assembly at 6pm in the GMB.