Food voucher scheme is designed to keep refugees out of Ireland

The government is proposing that from April 2000, social welfare payments will be replaced by food vouchers &endash; what they are calling 'direct provision'. The scheme is discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional. It is damaging to community and racial relations. It is a costly method, designed entirely to keep refugees out.

Vouchers must be cashed at a particular store. This can mean people having to walk miles to get there as you will have no money for bus fares. This applies to everyone, pregnant women, children or sick people.

The vouchers have to be cashed in full at the one time, so the children are deprived of fresh milk by half way through the week. The designated stores keep few foods suitable for many people from abroad, for example, halal meat for Muslims.

There are arguments at the checkouts in stores when you have spent too much or too little. Checkout personnel become annoyed and abusive through having to take items off a bill. Other shoppers get annoyed and abusive at getting delayed. Some stores in the UK are introducing special checkouts for voucher holders which makes them publicly stigmatised and humiliated.

A food voucher system is wide open to discriminatory practice and pressure from unfriendly civil servants. Food vouchers (instead of cash payments) make it impossible to have any sort of public life &endash; no bus rides, no cups of coffee in a café, no birthday presentsÉ.

In the UK sometimes stores will not allow purchase of orange juice or yoghurt, deodorant or underwear as they are not seen as essential. When people pick branded goods instead of the supermarket's own brand they are told off.

People sharing a fridge with other lodgers have problems with storing all their week's supplies.

How are you to pay your gas and electricity bills? How can you clothe yourself and children? The preliminary victims of direct provision are to be refugees and asylum seekers. The government wants you to believe that they have all come here to sponge off the Irish community welfare system, whereas in reality they are fleeing war, famine, oppression and desperate economic circumstances in their own countries.

The Anti-Racism Campaign believes the introduction of food vouchers is discriminatory, unconstitutional and cruel. We believe it could be the first step to introducing direct provision into the Irish social welfare system in general, as in the UK and America. Who would be next? People on long-term unemployment? Travellers? The elderly? Single parents? YOU?

Already refugees arriving in the last couple of weeks are being bussed out of Dublin to B&B's in other towns, where they are given meals and just £15 a week in cash. This is exactly half the amount of money given to Irish homeless people put in similar accommodations. It is the government's way of bringing in direct provision through the back door. It is another way of ensuring that refugees are kept isolated from Irish people.

The introduction of food vouchers must be stopped. We need your help to ensure it does not start. Please contact your TDs and Councillors and make your objections known. If you are a shop worker, contact your Union &endash; your job will definitely be affected by this move. Ring your local radio station. Spread the wordÉ.

Part of the Anti - Racism Campaigns web site