Want to start a Solidarity Dinner?
Fabulous! You're not on your own- Solidarity Dinners have started in Waterford, Killarney and Mosney with more to come. Below are a few pointers on how to get started.
1. Where can we hold a Solidarity Dinner?
Anywhere really! We hold ours in Jigsaw, an autonomous social space in Dublin. We’re aware that these aren’t everywhere though, so try contacting community centres, sports clubs, churches that might have parish halls. You could even have it in a house.
2. How many people 'make' a Solidarity Dinner'?
Our dinners started small. It’s important to remember this. Any Solidarity Dinner is a successful solidarity dinner. Even if it’s only a group of 10 people in a room getting to know each other over some nice food!
3. How many people do we need to help out?
For a big dinner hosting about 150 people, on average we have about 20 volunteers on the day. These sound people do a variety of things: cooking either on the day or in advance, preparing the space, cleaning dishes, playing with the young people, serving food...
We had 15 people contribute dishes for the day. These varied in size from serving 8 to maybe 70. We have always had a fairly relaxed approach to food, and we have never run out, although once or twice we have been pretty worried that we would! We encourage attendees to bring something to share too. To prevent food waste, we encourage people to bring containers and take leftovers.
4. How can we get in touch with direct provision residents interested in participating and organising?
Contacting the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) is a great place to start. Check their website and their facebook page for more details. MASI activists will know many of the people living in direct provision centres, and can spread the word in centres. Activists from RAMSI may also be helpful in this respect, so feel free to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
5. How can we encourage people to mix?
At our dinners people have always mixed really well. Food is great for bringig people together and if people are going to centres to give people lifts to the dinner, this can be a great way of making friendships and developing relationships. Another idea might be to organise a seating lottery to mix people around.
Attendees have definitely moved from attending to helping organise and and this has been something we aspired towards from the beginning. We did this by having a sign up sheet and telling people about when our general meetings are. Now we have a really great core group and it is made up by people who have and have not got papers. It's really important to us that the dinners should be planned and organised, where possible, by the people affected by the injustices of DP. It has taken time to build links with people in DP, but now we are at a stage where the group can work like that.
Finally, remember why these dinners exist!
We have always tried to ensure that our Solidarity Dinners keep their political message. While the horrific events occurring on Europe’s borders may seem far away from us in Ireland, it is important to remember that the same racist and xenophobic logic exists in our direct provision system here.
When the Direct Provision system was established in 2000, it was described as an ‘interim’ solution to the high numbers of asylum seekers entering the State in search of protection, and concerns about a growing risk of homelessness for that population. 17 years on, the system still exists, and continues to separate and isolate asylum seekers from Irish society. Under direct provision, asylum seekers are denied the right to work, the right to third level education and are forced into institutional living.
Many centres are privately run and owners are making large profits from running centres. Standards of accommodation are extremely varied and often extremely poor. Abuse and intimidation of residents is also a serious problem. Regardless of standards, we believe that any system which limits individuals’ freedom and autonomy, and isolates them from broader society is unjust, and should be abolished. We hope that our dinners challenge this injustice, and break down the barriers created by direct provision, even if it’s just for a few hours.
While they challenge the logic of apartheid that direct provision creates, it is also really important for us to use them as a platform to educate people about the issues faced by migrants in Ireland.