IWD 2016: Ireland’s Refugee Situation

About the blogger: Ruth Drennan works as a Contact Lens Optician in Dublin City Centre. She has been on the management committee of the YWCA Residence since 2012 and currently serves as Chair. Ruth is passionate about raising awareness of the refugee situation in Ireland and has many friends who are refugees. For our International Women’s Day blog series, she shares some of her thoughts on Ireland’s refugee situation. 

Refugees in Ireland live in direct provisions hostels until their asylum case has been decided upon. This is a process that can take many years.  They are provided with accommodation, food and basic medical care, however, they are not allowed to work and they are not entitled to claim any social welfare. They are given €19.10 per week to live on and €9.60 per child.

According to the www.irishrefugeecouncil.ie there are approximately 2000 children and 4000 adults currently living direct provisions hostels. The rules of direct provision centres vary but most do not allow residents to welcome their friends into their rooms. This rule was condemned in the high court in 2014 as being unconstitutional. This rule makes it difficult for people who would like to invite their friends to their homes. It is common to have parents and up to four children living in one room. The inadequate space also makes it difficult for older children to study for exams when the whole family live in one room. Residents are not allowed to cook their own food. This is particularly a problem for people who suffer from certain illnesses or have specific dietary requirements.

DR Geoffrey Shannon, The Irish government’s Special Rapporteur on Child Protection has called direct provision “Institutionalised Poverty” and described it as having “a profound impact on mental health of adults and children”.

I spoke to a young lady who is a very accomplished artist and had a good salary, career and education in her home country. She had to flee her country and came to Ireland for help. She stressed that she is very thankful to be living in safety in Ireland. I asked her how she coped with living in a direct provisions hostel. She said that she finds it difficult at times because she is stared at by the men in the hostel and this makes her feel uncomfortable. She is very homesick and misses her family and friends at home. This is especially difficult as she knows that she can not return to her home country. She made the suggestion that separate men’s and woman’s hostels may be a good idea.

As Christians we remember that Jesus was a refugee when his parents fled to Egypt to keep him safe.  The parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25, talks about Jesus telling his disciples on his return on the last day;

“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me”

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”

There are several ways in which we as individuals can help our new friends in Ireland:

  • For more information on the refugee situation in Ireland, see “The Ministry to Migrants and Asylum Seekers” by Nick Park
  • Pray for our politicians,  that they will make good decisions about direct provision that will treat people with respect and dignity.
  • Write to your local TD’s asking them to bring the issue of how we treat refugees in Ireland to the attention of the government
  • Volunteer with an organisation who works with refugees, e.g Jesuit Refugee Service Ireland; jrs.ie or City of Sanctuary Dublin; www.cityofsanctuary.org
  • Make time to make friends with refugees.


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