Question: What has happened to Western Society?

Asylum Seeker little girl's painting

Have you heard of the “Departure Centres”? These are places where families and single people live if their asylum applications have been rejected, and they don’t want to go back to their home countries.

A friend of mine in Denmark, Karen Land Hansen started art classes in one of these places and she was telling me about it. “It is located in an old, fenced-in military complex and there are many strict rules, and it’s altogether a horrible and shameful solution, for a country of such wealth”.

“It is hard to witness how depressed and unhappy the people are in these centres,” Karen writes, “but of course it’s harder on the residents themselves…” She posted the picture above with the message: “Sjælsmark is no place for anyone, especially for children. A girl drew this fine but sad drawing. The children find it so difficult, it’s really tragic…”

Print from the Concerning the Other art project

I haven’t heard of such a system in Ireland but we have our own shameful situation here with “Direct provision”. Even though the McMahon Report (2015) made many recommendations to improve the situation, the reality for many asylum seekers here continues to be several years of limbo in an institutionalized setting which is not at all appropriate for vulnerable adults or their growing children.

Of course there are many caring people like Karen who strive to help those less fortunate than themselves but – What has happened in Western society that we have become so intolerant, so hostile, so unkind to strangers?

Print from the Concerning the Other art project

And I’ve said it before – artists can take a lead in promoting diversity and showing concern for refugees and for vulnerable minorities. For instance, with Concerning the Other – a project curated by Olivier Cornet, Claire Halpin and myself – we got 10 artists to work together to produce 100 collaborative artworks on themes of solidarity and inclusion.

The second and third images above are from this project. A selection of the works will be exhibited soon at An Táin Arts Centre in Dundalk. The official opening will be on the 2nd of March, 2019 and you’re all invited!  The show runs until the 6th of April.

There’s a lot more information about the project on our Facebook page at:

The Irish Immigrant Support Centre

Now, if you thought that I’d have an answer for what has happened to Western Society, well I’m afraid that I don’t. Maybe you have an opinion about it?  Your comments are always welcome, let’s start a conversation – down below…



  1. It is a sad read. We think of ourselves as inclusive and as great humanitarians. But in reality we include no one and treat those less fortunate with little humanity. It’s an eye opener Eoin: but we just close our eyes again.


  2. It makes me very angry to hear all the negative comments about direct provision since I know that a lot of the centres are very well run and enjoy excellent facilities and a lovely atmosphere. In this case, as in many others, it seems sadly, to make better television to give bad news rather than good, and one cranky individual is sought to give as negative a slant as possible to the story.
    Since the ban on the asylum seekers working has been removed, the only trouble that is consistently found with the system is the length of stay that some asylum seekers have to wait before being allowed to stay. Furthermore the trouble with a lot of the long delays is not with the direct provision itself… let me explain. Normally an asylum seeker will be informed within 3 or 4 months whether or not he/she is allowed to stay. If accepted no problem. If not the decision may be appealed. In this case lawyers get involved, and we all know how quickly legal matters are decided in this country! And that is not the end of the story. If the appeal fails the lawyers are not finished yet – they find some other grounds for appealing the original decision (and earning more money), and away we go again.This is how some asylum seekers end up for years in direct provision centres.

    Another factor delaying the moving of people out of direct provision is the lack of available housing, but that is no surprise considering the scandalous lack of affordable housing for Irish and foreigner alike.


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