What life is really like living in a Direct Provision Centre - one woman's experience
Posted on January 13, 2020 at 04:28 PM
It's estimated that there are more than 6,000 asylum seekers living in controversial Direct Provision centres across Ireland, with around 1,400 in emergency accommodation such as hotels and B&Bs. In her blog Nigerian born, Elizabeth Adeyemo describes her experiences living in a Direct Provision Centre in Mosney, County Meath for seven years. She graduated from Maynooth and is studying for a Masters Degree at DCU. Elizabeth calls Mosney "a decorated prison" but also says she loves this country and like other immigrants longed to be free to work, to build, to contribute and give their children a chance.
Congress has worked for many years on the issue of asylum seekers, direct provision and the right to work. There is a broad consensus among civil society that we must find an alternative to accommodation for asylum seekers other than the system of direct provision. This position was recently confirmed by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination who in December recommended that the Government should develop an alternative reception model and take concrete steps to phase out the Direct Provision system. The article below spells out why such action is urgently needed.
In Our Decorated Prison
From 2008 to 2015, I was one of the many immigrant children who lived under the direct provision system as an asylum seeker in Ireland. Before we were finally moved to Mosney Accommodation Centre in Co.Meath, my family and I were transferred twice to different hostels. Our first home was a one-bedroom space shared between myself, my seven-year-old brother and my heavily pregnant mother.
I had just turned 10 years old and I was excited about being in Europe. Completely unaware of the geographical implications of our situation, I didn’t know that I was an immigrant or what it meant to be an immigrant.
A lot was unclear at the time, nevertheless, I knew that my very hardworking and ambitious mother couldn’t stay in our home country, Nigeria, anymore. I knew that my parents wanted us to have a better chance of living a life without threat and instability, thus Ireland became our new home.
During the first couple of weeks in Mosney, I was content. Mosney was much bigger than the previous hostels we had lived in. It seemed like an estate to me, a small community. As time went on I started observing how different my life was from the other children outside the camp. As I became older, it was clear to me that this system, this wait, this denial of integration and livelihood was having a detrimental effect on the minds of the people in the hostel.
Although I was still very young, it became difficult to be a child, difficult to be happy or feel free. We were stagnant, kept in this place unaware of what our fate would be. I became familiar with the fear and anxiety that immigrants shared. We were expected to live like this indefinitely. I would often ponder and say to myself; even sentenced prisoners are aware of their release date, so why are families left here, waiting for years? What regarding the process of seeking asylum requires almost a decade of our lives as a sacrifice?
It wasn’t just the wait that made the hostel unbearable, it was the reality we were faced with every day; the uncertainty and fear that every immigrant felt within. It was the dignity that was taken from each individual as each year went by. Parents were unable to adequately provide for their children, I witnessed how that broke my mother's heart. As a child, you begin to lose faith and lower your expectations. Nothing made sense about growing up in that environment. There is no justification for how long people are kept in these hostels.
I am one of the immigrants who can look back at this stage of my life and say that I got through it. I cannot say that I got through it unscathed. The final years of my secondary school experience were the hardest. It felt as though living in that environment had become a part of my identity. I carried the anxiety and sadness everywhere with me. I became mentally absent, I grew tired of the restrictions and routine.
My peers at school would speak of their future plans to attend college and I would exclude myself from those conversations. I thought it was such a privilege to be able to think about the future like that. I tried to occupy myself with music, friends and religion but I was always half present. I had witnessed so many shocking and heartbreaking events occur during my time at the camp.
Some people lost their lives in the system, some lost their minds, others lost their fathers and mothers as they were deported. As I got older, I would hear about the protests but see no results. I often wondered if those outside the hostel understood. I wondered if they heard what the protesters were saying and what they were asking for.
I was about 16 years old when my mother took me to a meeting held between some government officials and a few asylum seekers who lived in the camp. I watched the faces of the government representatives as the people shared their grievances. I expressed to them the burden that the system placed on children like me. After the meeting, I was asked to write a letter regarding the current situation of myself and family.
Not long after this, we received our liberation. The ‘papers’ we spent years waiting for were finally granted. I was short for words and in complete disbelief but I could have hope again. I could envision a better future, I could go to college and we would be leaving that toxic environment.
I remember sitting in the church van on the day of the move as we drove towards the gates and I saw them open up. We were being set free. Finally welcomed into society, to be recognized as a person with aspirations. Four years later, I graduated from Maynooth University and I am now carrying out a Masters degree at Dublin City University.
Both my parents are working, and my siblings are attending school in our new community. I love this country and I am grateful to be a part of it. However, not all stories have ended as peacefully as mine. Many stories have ended in tragedy.
The people I saw in that camp didn’t want to be liabilities to the country, they did not want to be fed, they wanted to be free. They wanted to be free to work, to build, to be a part of the community, to contribute, to give their children a better chance. This is not an ‘immigrant’s dream’, this is a universal dream.