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…”
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?
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:
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…