- 07 Sep 20
Muhammad Arif Ahrar, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan, recently died by suicide, having stayed in a makeshift direct provision centre in Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan. A run organised by Sanctuary Runners will remember him…
People across the country have been invited to run in the memory of Muhammad Arif Ahrar, an Afghan asylum seeker, who died while living in a Co Monaghan Direct Provision centre, last month.
The Sanctuary Runners, comprised of asylum seekers, migrants and Irish Citizens, have organised the 'virtual run' event for September 19, at 11am.
Members of the public are encouraged to use the hashtag #RunforArif and post a photo of themselves on social media while walking or running in memory of Muhammad Arif Ahrar.
Journalist and broadcaster Graham Clifford founded the Sanctuary Runners in Cork, in 2018, to use healthy, group activities such as running and jogging as a vehicle for connecting migrants and asylum seekers with the Irish public.
Clifford told Hot Press that the 'Run for Arif' campaign has one clear purpose and that is to provide an opportunity for people to do something positive to keep Arif's memory alive.
"Nobody should be forgotten," Graham Clifford said, “regardless of their legal status, race, religion or colour. And no matter where they die, be it at home surrounded by loved ones or in a hotel serving as a direct provision centre surrounded by strangers.
"In our small way, we wish to remember Arif and share our principles of solidarity, friendship and respect to all those seeking International Protection in Ireland – and around the world."
THEY ARE NOT ALONE
Welcoming the initiative, Hameed Wasily, a member of the Afghan community in Dublin, told Hot Press that they are grateful for all the support they have received from members of the public since Arif's death.
"On behalf of the Afghan community in Ireland," Wasily said. “I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone involved in this campaign and the organisers of Sanctuary Runners.
"The Fingal Community Against Racism here in Dublin and the people sending condolences from all over Ireland – all the support and standing in solidarity – is very much appreciated."
The Afghan community in Dublin single-handedly raised funds for the repatriation of Arif's body. They had previously told Hot Press that they were not accepting any posthumous support from the Department of Justice.
A spokesperson for the campaign Abolish Direct Provision Ireland (ADPI) also told Hot Press that initiatives like that being promoted by Sanctuary Runners ensure that asylum seekers in Ireland know that huge portions of the Irish public supports them.
"It is important for asylum seekers to see,” the spokesperson said, “that the people of Ireland are coming out in solidarity to these events as a statement that they are not alone in these isolated centres that are run for profit."
UNIQUE RISK FACTORS
The sad death of the young Afghan man also put renewed focus on the reality that many asylum seekers may need assistance with mental health issues when they arrive here – which they are currently unlikely to receive.
"Arif’s death is a wake-up call,” the Abolish Direct Provision spokesperson said, “that we don't know the mental struggles that asylum seekers have had to endure – and in many cases still have to."
Muhammad Arif Ahrar is believed to have been living in Treacy's Hotel for the past eight months. The Department of Justice had previously told Hot Press that it is running 33 emergency accommodation centres across the State. They did not clarify what might be an ‘acceptable length of time’ that an asylum seeker can spend in one of these makeshift centres.
Between 2007 to 2017, forty asylum seekers have died while living under State care. This number includes stillborn babies and one 'neonatal death'.
A recent study published in the Journal of European Psychiatry revealed that asylum seekers fleeing conflict and war were increasingly susceptible to self-harm and suicide.
"Refugees and asylum-seekers may face unique risk factors for mental disorder before, during, and after their migration leading to suicidality," the study states.
The run organised by Sanctuary Runners takes place on Saturday, September 19, at 11am.
• Suicide prevention hotlines can provide support to anyone affected by the sensitive topics raised in this article. Call Samaritans Freephone 116 123 or email [email protected]