( This was copied from my blog Vlaming in Ierland/Fleming in Ireland)
Imagine running away from home for fear of being bombed, tortured or killed. Imagine running away as fast as you can, your heart pounding, hearing your torturers run right behind you, coming closer and closer.
Suddenly you see a beautiful house, full of light and music, with Neon Lights outside spelling ‘Welcome, you are safe here’. You stop for a second, not believing that you finally found a safe place, you run forward and knock on the door. The door opens, a voice says, do come in, you are safe now. You are inside and for a moment all you can see is the light, all you can hear is the beautiful music, and you cry tears of relief and happiness, you are safe.
The day after your arrival in the safe haven of the Emerald Isle, though, reality kicks in. The gentle voice who welcomed you is now not so gentle any more, but is trying to make you see that you actually had no reason to run, that you were really just pretending and that a serious investigation is needed to find out whether you were indeed at risk of being killed or tortured, or if you were just hungry and needed a place with plenty of food.
As long as this investigation is running, they say, you can stay in a place called Direct Provision Centre, where you will get food, not the best food, but something you can eat and you may have to share your room with a few other people who also ran away from their countries, and you ask if you could maybe do some jobs to earn some money and find your own place and cook your own food while you wait for this investigation to finish, and the voice says ‘No’. Thou shalt not work! Thou shalt get 19€ a week to buy thyself a drink and a snack, but thou shalt not work!
So what do you do?
You try your best. You try and get on with the others in the Direct Provision houses. You befriend them and you chat to them and you soon find out you are all bored out of your minds.
So you put your pennies together and get some alcohol and organise a party. It feels good to be drunk, you want to do it again, but hey, your week’s 19 € is all gone. What to do?
Maybe if you could do some work on the black? Don’t let the Direct Provision Centre’s manager notice, just go for walks around town, find a restaurant to wash the dishes where the owners don’t care if you have a work permit.
Go and paint houses, fix cars, anything, anything you used to do at home and can put to use here will do. A long as it is a little secret.
So you find a job like that and you work and earn less than the average worker, but more than the 19 € a week, and you are able to buy more alcohol and party and forget.
The more alcohol you consume the more people you meet who also drink to forget, and you soon form a circle of friends of the wrong kind.
You work on the black and you drink and you drink some more, but you are a grown-up man and you need sex. So you date drinking Irish girls who swear every two words and want an adventure with a man of a different colour. Drunk, of course.
You carry this on for a few months and you drink more and more until the day your drunken spirit starts a fight with another guy who thinks you screwed his woman. You return to your shared room with two black eyes and a few teeth missing and you fall asleep, or rather nearly in a coma.
You wake up with a bursting headache and stumble to the bathroom, and there you see yourself in the mirror.
‘Is this me?’, you think. You remember how only last year, before the bombing started you were a teacher in your country, you enjoyed a certain status and you were respected by everyone in your environment. Is this me? How did I get here?
Am i really this bum that goes around drinking and fighting? How can I get out of this?
You stay indoors that day and find a woman from one of your neighbouring countries who is willing to talk to you. You tell her about what has happened and how ashamed you are of what you have become. She doesn’t react.
She stares at the floor and sighs. You ask her what she’s thinking. She looks at you, her eyes filled with tears, and says ‘at home I was a nurse, I took care of people, Here I take care of only men, with big bellies, in their cars, on the side of the road……….
This, dear readers, is what is happening right here, on the fringes of society. The Direct Provision Centres are a source of deep misery, where people are forced to live in very bad circumstances and trouble is brewing. If the government doesn’t find an alternative solution to the treatment of asylum seekers, it will soon be faced with serious problems that have been brewing right under our noses and we have all chosen to neglect hem.
What do you think when you pass by the Direct Provision Centres? Do you even know what and where they are?
What do you think when you see a black man walking on his own late at night, looking drunk? Have you ever thought ‘this guy is probably a highly qualified teacher, doctor or IT specialist who had to run away’, or do you just think ‘Another one of those so called asylum seekers’?
It is high time to investigate the provision centres and to act and give people the dignity they so deserve!