Minister Frances Fitzgerald claimed to be shocked at reports that some women in direct provision centres felt compelled into sex work by the poverty they are kept in. How can that be, its Minister Frances Fitzgerald who actually operates this direct provision system that creates such circumstances.
As the Minister she does not allow asylum seekers to work, leaving them to exist on €19.10 per week, often for periods measured in years. Who can imagine living month after month with such a minuscule amount of spending money? And while she now wants to suggest she has concern for such women the reality is that she is the one who signs deportation orders, orders which will very often send the same women to very much more difficult circumstances.
Fitzgerald might claim that “I certainly don’t want to see any woman in Ireland feeling the only option for her is prostitution in order to look after her family” but the direct provision system she runs is the very thing that ensures such women have no other choices. As one of the women put it to RTE “I had no choice also because I know that I cannot afford anything and I know that I have to do it.”
The other side of this story is the role played by migrant support organisations. Many of these are part of the Turn Off the Red Light campaign which demands legislation against paying for sex. Yet its clear from media reports that the women these organisations claim to want to protect feel such work is the only option for them.
It’s also clear they already recognise that such work can be dangerous but that they are more afraid of the authorities, again with one women explaining ““People are afraid to speak out. Maybe they have family and they are afraid to speak out. They are afraid the Government will find out.”
It’s clear that in such situations criminalising clients will expose the women to far more risk as the women will no longer be able to meet clients at or near the hostels. It’s the women who will end up bearing the risk of evading potential Garda operations against clients, something made clear by the revelation that although in theory they hope to earn 50 euro for a customer often its only 20 “because they know you are desperate for that €20”.
Fitzgerald might fake concern for the media but the reality is she is running a system that not only traps women (and their families) in isolation and poverty but which recently forced one pregnant migrant women through an unwanted pregnancy and C-section, long after she had requested an abortion.
The direct provision system that warehouses migrants in conditions of isolation, mystery and poverty must be brought to an immediate end and migrants given the same access to benefits as the rest of us.
WORDS Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )