Page 44

The general shortage of private rented accommodation in Dublin, coupled with prejudice against people on rent allowance,against refugees, and particularly against black people meant that the asylum seeker in search of accommodation had to make manyfruitlesstelephonecallsandjourneys–allonaSupplementaryWelfare Allowance. One man from Africa had spent thirteen months looking for a place of his own. When they hear an African accent,they tell you the house is gone. Asylum seekers’ major focus tended to be the outcome of their case, which hangs on the determination interview conducted by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform/Refugee Applications Commissioner. In day to day matters, it is the Community Welfare Officer who adjudicates on Supplementary Welfare Allowance, rent allowances and requests for exceptional payments.Although Irish welfare provisions catered for the asylum seekers’ basic need s ,i n tegration measures at the crucial ‘first impression’ stage seemed inadequate. Nobody likes to go away from their home if they have had a good life… Department of Justice officials haven’t the perfect system to make decisions ... they don’t seem to understand about asylum seekers, and see them as dangerous or criminal.A few may be but some have high skills useful for Ireland. It all depends on Justice. If they grant me asylum it will change my life and I can settle down in Ireland –stay here.I can’t go home. Many asylum seekers were isolated and suffered considerable boredom. One fifth reported having no social contact and another quarter only had contact with other asylum seekers. The majority of these are young men without family in Ireland – a group already at risk of psychological problems. The Irish way of socialising – the pub and club scene- presented difficulties because people had limited incomes and for Muslims- because of the way it centred on alcohol. This arena also brought up the issue of discrimination, which was spontaneously raised by one third of respondents. Black, recently arrived asylum seekers with higher than average socio-economic status were most likely to mention it. One or two described racial attacks while more mentioned verbal abuse and the refusal of service. Though Roma respondents were often targets of discrimination,those in the study found less prejudice in Ireland than in their countries of origin. These reports of discrimination clearly underline the need for anti-racism measures in Ireland. I try to make friends here but am taken up with problems with the baby, looking for accommodation and following up the application for residency… I don’t know where to start with making friends. I feel I really need to get a job before I start to make real contacts and to get a place of my own. 44