Bar of Ireland 2021 Human Rights Award goes to MASI – Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland

23 November 2021

“MASI is a grass roots up organisation which has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of some of the most vulnerable people in our country” was how Human Rights Chair at The Bar of Ireland, Joseph O’Sullivan BL described the 2021 recipients of the Human Rights Award.

MASI –  the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland – are to be conferred with the Award in recognition of their work with those in Direct Provision, and in the community, advocating for better legal and social protection, as well as access to State services, including Education.

Joseph O’Sullivan BL., Chair of the Human Rights Committee

MASI are to be congratulated for their unbending commitment to the welfare of those who are in Direct Provision, those who are seeking to integrate into the community; as well as being an important voice in policy debates and formulation.  This  highlights them as a remarkable organisation comprised of individuals campaigning for themselves and for their communities who continue to shine the light on a defining human rights and dignity issue.

Lucky Khambule, Coordinator of MASI:

“Our work in MASI has been driven by a burning desire to live in a more just and fairer society. Inspired by our lived experiences, MASI organised as a collective with a belief that we can shape our future. And this is something Direct Provision robs us of – the ability to shape minor and major aspects of our lives and indeed our future.

We volunteer our time to work for the vindication of fundamental human rights for people deliberately placed on the margins of Irish society. We do this because of circumstances we find ourselves in the minute we stepped into a Direct Provision centre to live with little to no privacy, personal autonomy, and the dignity that comes with such freedoms.

This award is a tribute to tireless campaigners who gave so much of themselves to the movement, motivated only by the idea that their work would move Ireland towards the good society someday.”

Welcoming the announcement, Maura McNally SC, Chair of The Bar of Ireland said:

MASI continues to campaign on a number of issues, but of particular importance, is its work on Direct Provision, which deserves special recognition. 

Commitments under the Government White Paper on Direct Provision need to be honoured . This requires that resources be provided to address the atrocious treatment of individuals who have travelled to this country seeking refuge, dignity and respect. Direct provision has been a cause of trauma for those involved, some of whom are the most vulnerable people on our planet. 

Human rights are not the preserve of the few; they are the basic rights of all people, regardless of gender, colour, creed, religious belief or sexual orientation.

MASI’s steadfast campaigning and advocacy should serve as a vital reminder to politicians, lawyers and society in general of  the importance of  human rights, the bedrock of any democracy and rule of law.

Background to Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI)

MASI was started after the protests in the Direct Provision centres in 2014. MASI is a collective, independent group which endeavours to speak in one voice, on behalf of Asylum Seekers who are often dispersed in different locations and can struggle to be heard. Since its foundation, MASI has highlighted issues of significant concern in respect of the operation of direct provision and its effects on some of the most vulnerable people in the State. It has campaigned to end the direct provision system and this campaign was ultimately vindicated by the commitment to do so in the current Programme for Government adopted in July 2020.

A White Paper on ending Direct Provision and establishing a new International Protection Support Service was published by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Inclusion and Youth in February of this year. MASI was founded on principles of justice, freedom and equality and works consistently for the dignity of asylum seekers.

A factor in the decision was that the timing was considered to be particularly apposite given the government’s commitment to end direct provision articulated in the White Paper on ending Direct Provision as well as the Supreme Court decision on the right to work, NHV v Minister for Justice and Equality [2017] IESC 35.

About the Human Rights Award

This Bar of Ireland Human Rights Award is made in recognition of outstanding contributions in the field of human rights.  This year, the focus of the Committee was on new communities, and how their work contributes to the human rights framework.

Past recipients of the Award include

  • Dr. Mike Ryan, World Health Organisation (2020)
  • Tomáš Reichental (2019)
  • Orla Tinsley (2018)
  • Catherine Corless (2017)
  • The Irish Naval Service (2016)