For many people this Christmas, there will be no kitchen table, no living room and no Christmas tree. As part of a series, Today with Sean O’Rourke reporter Brian O’Connell has been spending time with families who won’t be in their own homes this Christmas. For this morning’s programme, Brian met with two families in Direct Provision.
“We know that there are about 3,000 children homeless in Ireland, but there are also 1,200 children living in Direct Provision.”
The notion of placing people in Direct Provision, Brian reminds us, was intended as short-term accommodation while asylum applications were being assessed. People in Direct Provision are currently denied the right to work – although that may be ruled unconstitutional shortly – and this, together with the conditions in many Direct Provision centres, places a huge strain on families, especially at times of the year like Christmas. There is no prospect of earning additional income to allow for gifts, clothes or decorations.
Brian met two families in Direct Provision. The first family, a woman and her three children who came from Nigeria, have been here for three years.
“There is nothing like a normal life. We do everything in the room.”
The children’s mother told Brian that the one thing she would wish for Christmas was a comfortable home that her children would feel at home in and one which would have the spirit of Christmas. The eldest daughter, who’s 19, told Brian that she doesn’t have many friends and the commercial nature of Christmas makes it a particularly hard time of the year.
“It has affected me so much socially, emotionally, financially.”
Although she got the marks in her Leaving Cert, and was offered a place in UCC’s Biochemical Sciences degree course, she wasn’t able to go to college, because, she told Brian, “the system says you have to be five years in the system”.
“If I could wish for one thing this Christmas, just get out of here. And, if possible, wake up one morning, get a scholarship, and they tell me, oh you are able to live a free life. That would make my entire life.”
Brian also met a 26-year-old woman who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo with her 18-month son and sought asylum here. Two years down the road, she’s still waiting to hear whether or not her case will be successful. The woman – who asked not to be named – lives in one room with her son and shares a bathroom with another woman. She told Brian what Christmas is like for her and her son:
“Christmas is a wonderful time of the year, but for us, I don’t really have much hope for it because we don’t have a place to call home.”
Her biggest wish, Brian told Sean, is to be able to work and to have a key to her own front door.
You can hear Brian’s full report, as well as the rest of the Today programme, here:
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