Earlier month, Trinity College Dublin’s Students’ Union (TCDSU), in collaboration with Trinity VDP, launched a fundraising campaign to raise money for those in Direct Provision.
The “March4Masi” campaign is being held throughout this month in hopes of raising €10,000 for MASI and Bridge the Gap, two charities that work in conjunction with those in Direct Provision.
In the first week on the campaign, March4Masi has raised over €2,000.
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) is an Irish advocacy group for those seeking international protection in the Republic of Ireland, with the goals of ending direct provision and deportation.
In a statement to Trinity News, TCDSU President Eoin Hand said: “I am delighted to announce that TCDSU in collaboration with Trinity VDP are launching a fundraiser, March4Masi during the month of March to raise €10,000 for MASI and Bridge the Gap, two charities that work directly with those in Direct Provision.”
“In 1999, Direct Provision was introduced as a temporary solution to housing asylum seekers and migrants who sought refuge in Ireland,” Hand explained. “Between 2007-2017, 44 people have died in Direct Provision.”
“Covid has run rampant throughout centres with devastating effects. This is having a direct impact on members of the Trinity College Dublin community, students in our university who live in these centres.”
Speaking to Trinity News about his reasoning behind starting the campaign, Hand said that the thinking behind it was that “during March, people have more reason to get out with the nicer weather”.
“Lockdown has been so tough that it’s almost refreshing to have a focus. It’s something small; it’s something easier to focus on with regards to fundraising activity, with the ‘tag 5, walk or run 5 and donate whatever you can’,” he explained. “It’s good to get involved and feel like you’re doing something good.”
Hand continued to explain that MASI and Bridge the Gap are two “grassroots organizations” that work with people “on the ground” in Direct Provision.
Hand added:“The motive, or the reason I choose Direct Provision, is that it’s Anti-Racism Month, and I pitched these two charities because Direct Provision has always been quite topical for Trinity students.”
Hand explained that Direct Provision is something that is “always on people’s minds” including how government is treating these people” and “how different corporations are profiting” from the “depravity” that people who are living in Direct Provision experience.
“What really brought it to the fore of my mind was when the Mother and Baby homes document was released and they basically said that the Irish population was implicit in the Mother and Baby home institutions.”
“I was horrified by that comment,” Hand continued. “It was quite a contemporary comment to make.”
“I just thought that was a horrible statement to make, and that it could be so easily applied to the Irish population nowadays, in thirty years time, overlooking all the work that has been done that all different campaigners have done and all the work different student campaigners have done and all the work that grassroots organizations have done to defend the rights of those living in Direct Provision centers.”
“I wanted to do a whole month of fundraising and highlighting what Direct Provision is.”
TCDSU held a Refugee Week back in week 3 of Michaelmas term this year, with the aim of “raising awareness” to what conditions some people are living in, Hand explained.
Hand explained that he is also launching this campaign to “raise a little money” that can be given to MASI and Bridge the Gap, as because they are “grassroots”, they receive “no government funding at all”.
When asked the current plans by government to end Direct Provision by 2024 and does he think these plans are adequate, Hand said that it’s “an interesting timeline” and he “could be cynical and say that four years is enough time to make small subtle changes that most people won’t realise”. Hand then explained that it is “also enough time” for “something to go wrong”.
“It sounds like a strange timeline; it is going to take three years to dismantle Direct Provision, and it’s dealing with roughly 7,000 people. It doesn’t seem like a monumental task to dismantle, so the timeline for me is a huge issue.”
“But taking the commitment and taking the steps in the right direction to remove institutions that we built up in Ireland is a positive,” Hand added. “So, I’m conflicted in how I feel about it.”
Urging students to get involved with the campaign, Hand said to “look outside”, “see the sunshine” and “get out and about”.
“Walk 5k, Run 5k, Tag 5 people and donate whatever you can. Look up MASI, look up Bridge the Gap and see what kind of work they do, see why this is such a valuable thing to get behind.”
“Familiarize yourself with what Direct Provision is, because what I don’t want to see, which may be inevitable, is in thirty years time, people who are our age now will be writing these reports for government and will look back and say ‘the Irish people were implicit in allowing Direct Provision to happen’.”
“I don’t want to have to take that blame,” Hand concluded. “I don’t want our generation to take that flac either, because it’s something we don’t deserve.”
“So many people are active and vocal in trying to abolish Direct Provision, and we are working towards a better Ireland, one we can be proud of. Not one that marginalises and institutionalises a small portion of people, no matter how many people.”
“Don’t allow yourself to fall victim to being implicit to something so horrible as institutionalisation.”
In their earlier statement, the union expressed that aspart of the fundraiser, if any student “ever wanted to see the sabbatical officer, or other members of the union embarrass themselves”, they should “get in touch”.
“We will post your suggestions to be voted on by you and commit to what you want to see as part of the fundraising efforts!”
In August of last year, MASI published documents showing Department of Justice reports monitoring media coverage and social media activity related to Direct Provision which record the amount of traction that posts attracted on social media platforms.
Among the tweets and statements included in the report is a statement from USI calling for vacant student accommodation to be used to support vulnerable students in Direct Provision.