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Asylum seekers hopeful that Obama visit may bring change

Last update - Sunday, May 15, 2011, 16:36 By Catherine Reilly

ASYLUM SEEKERS IN Ireland are adopting a pragmatic perspective on the visit of US President Barack Obama. Most are hopeful his visit may change some attitudes towards people from immigrant backgrounds, but doubt the occasion will impact their lives in a real way.

Judy from Kenya has been in Ireland for over three years. Originally from Kenya, she lives at a ‘direct provision’ hostel in Dublin and is not allowed to work or enter third level education. 

Expressing pride in her shared heritage with the president, whose father was a student from Kenya, she says: “I will be happy to see him here, and happy to see him if he came to the hostels.”

She doubted, however, that the president would be visiting asylum seekers – who number around 6,000 countrywide and live in ‘direct provision’ accommodation, without the right to work. But she hoped he can “tell the Government to consider us”. 

Judy, who voluntarily helps other asylum seekers who are emotionally struggling, said many are “very depressed” and living in cramped conditions.

Nchedo from Nigeria lives at a hostel in Co Wexford, and has been in the system for over seven years. He says President Obama’s visit is encouraging for asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers.

 If one keeps “a clean record of behaviour along with hard work, I see nothing stopping one from becoming the Obama of Ireland”, he comments.

He added that a “practical integration programme” is necessary to ensure such people are a real part of Irish life.

It is not yet known if President Obama will visit any immigrant-orientated groups, including asylum seekers, during his visit. A spokesperson at the US Embassy in Dublin told Metro Éireann that “no confirmation has been released by the White House” as regards his itinerary, which will be known “closer to the date” of arrival.

There are approximately 6,000 asylum seekers living at around 50 direct provision system centres throughout the country, run by private operators under contracts with the Department of Justice. Housing asylum seekers and related costs came to €86.5m in 2009.




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