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Opinion: How would I, a refugee in Ireland, vote in this election?

Voting is a privilege and homelessness is the biggest challenge, writes Evgeny Shtorn.

Evgeny Shtorn

I AM A stateless person.

This means no government on our little planet will allow me to vote for or against it. I am a refugee in Ireland.

This also means that this country will be home for me likely for the rest of my life.

I got refugee status just a few months ago, and it means that I do not have the right to vote in the general election. 

Before that, I had spent nineteen months in direct provision. 

So I am not biased, and I can speak from my heart without advocating for anyone in particular since my only option is to imagine what I would vote for if I had a chance.

Ireland’s issues, from my perspective

As a person who has lived in a few countries, I can agree that every country and society has heaps of different problems, difficulties and challenges.

In Ireland, for some people, the health system needs as much attention as a centralised system of garbage removal, while for others, public transport challenges are just as important.

But from my point of view, the core problem is the lack of affordable housing for everyone.

I know young Irish IT-specialists who share flats and despite a good salary from multinational corporations they can barely afford to buy a house without family support.

I know internationally recognised scholars from different countries who have obtained positions in the best Irish universities and cannot afford to rent a flat. I won’t go into the details of other issues they face such as the impossibility of getting an appointment for the Irish Residence Permit (IRP) (formerly GNIB card) or other struggles that only non-EU citizens know.

In any case, these examples are still success stories. Imagine the poor and the disadvantaged who do not have a roof over their heads.

The privilege of a vote

So if I had a chance to vote, I would vote for the right of all people in Ireland to live in privacy and decency. I would vote for a government that realised the right to accessible housing.

When looking at political parties, I would vote for the party that understood that a country cannot develop if a good chunk of its population is homeless.

It should be considered part of the housing problem when people live with parents, share flats, rooms or sometimes beds with friends, or in a more likely scenario live with a stranger, in direct provision, homeless hubs, deteriorating houses and in social housing ghettos in Irish cities.

I would consider it a privilege to have a vote, and if I could, here’s how I would vote:

  • For the right of immigrants who came here to make a living and not to sleep in overcrowded rooms somewhere around a city square, in old and cold Georgian house being eaten by bedbugs; for their right not to just work minimum hours and another 40 in the shadowy markets to afford a room.
  • For the rights of people who came to study English and for the rights of their teachers who are self-employed unprotected freelancers.
  • For the rights of people who claimed their fundamental human right for international protection not to live in direct provision for unforgivable lengths. It is damaging for those waiting years for their asylum application to be processed while losing their professional skills. They are being institutionalised and alienated to such an extent that basically live in fear.
  • I would vote for the rights of those who sleep on the streets, those who suffer from addiction, those stigmatised and rejected by modern capitalism.
  • For the very simple and clear idea that society fails every time someone sleeps in corridors of a hospital or on a bench in a park.

While holding a polling card, I would enjoy that I could elect people to the high corridors of power – not those who wish to be elected at any cost, but politicians who would plan to build a better society.

Posters

One thing you can’t escape during an Irish election is the posters. I would suggest that instead of these posters with photoshopped faces of candidates, these politicians could rather print what they stand for.

Let them say what their programmes are, what improvements they intend to make. I was in Ireland during the Repeal the 8th Campaign. The streets were lined with progressive messages. One was motivated to constantly stand for the right of every woman to control her own body.

Now, instead of the faces of politicians, I would love to see in every single lamppost of Ireland how candidates plan to end homelessness, direct provision and overcrowded hostels for migrant workers – for those who don’t have a say in this election.

Evgeny Shtorn is an LGBT activist, organiser, and researcher from Russia. In 2018, he was forced to leave Russia and claim international protection. He currently works as a Cultural Diversity Researcher at Create – National Development Agency for Collaborative Arts in Dublin. He is a co-facilitator of ‘Something From There’ project in the National Gallery of Ireland. 

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Evgeny Shtorn

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