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Direct provision 'takes away your dignity and makes you feel worthless', resident says

A direct provision resident has said living in the system “takes away your dignity and makes yo...
Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

13.36 25 Oct 2021


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Direct provision 'takes away y...

Direct provision 'takes away your dignity and makes you feel worthless', resident says

Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

13.36 25 Oct 2021


Share this article


A direct provision resident has said living in the system “takes away your dignity and makes you feel worthless”.

Bulelani Mfaco spoke to Newstalk about the ‘eye-opening’ experience of being an asylum seeker in Ireland.

Direct provision refers to the system where people receive accommodation, food, money and medical services while seeking international protection in Ireland.

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The system has long proven controversial, and efforts are now underway to end it and replace it with a new system by the end of 2024.

Bulelani came to Ireland several years ago, seeking asylum here after leaving South Africa.

He left his home country over fears that members of the LGBT+ community were being targeted, attacked and in some cases even killed.

Bulelani is now a spokesperson for MASI (the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland) and spoke to Ireland’s Call about his experiences in the system.

He said: “From the first day I entered the direct provision system - November 1st 2017… it was eye-opening.

“I had never been forced to share an intimate space, such as a bedroom, with an intimate stranger… but here there were three beds in the same room.

“At first, it was me and another lad from Ghana who arrived on the same day. We went to sleep… when we woke up at 2am there was another stranger next to us.

"You could literally feel his breath - that’s how close together the beds are. Nobody came to even introduce him to us.”

Bulelani - who is now studying in UCD - also said entering the DP system was the first time in his life that he’d ever been deprived of the right to work.

He said: “That was one of the most depressing situations - when you wake up and you go into the canteen in the morning… you queue for breakfast, then you queue for lunch, then you queue for dinner.

“It takes away your dignity and makes you feel worthless - it takes you away from the position where you’re able to provide for yourself.”

Bulelani noted that asylum seekers have lives before they arrive in Ireland - working, studying and supporting themselves - but that all changes when they enter direct provision.

Ireland's Call survey

Bulelani was speaking as part of a panel that spoke to Ireland’s Call.

The show is aimed at exploring the stories of those who have made Ireland their home.

An exclusive Newstalk survey carried out for the show looked at the experiences of Ireland’s immigrant community.

The survey received responses from 270 non-Irish nationals living here.

Around 60% of respondents have experienced racism or xenophobia in Ireland.

However, 64% said Ireland is a welcoming country.

Bulelani said he has been treated differently to others, while other immigrants have been attacked.

He observed: "I think I'm fortunate enough that the racism I would experience would either be more structural racism - such as being treated differently by the Irish State - or very subtle forms of racism.

"People, for instance, reach out and touch my hair. I have dreadlocks - apparently white people are curious about black people's hair, and go to touch the dreadlocks on the bus.

"It's a violation of my body... not even my space, it's a part of my being. Or they would ask you 'do you wash your hair with normal shampoo?' These are things that are very easy to brush off... very subtle.

"I don't even think the people who do those things consider themselves to be racist - I think they would be very shocked if you actually told them 'you are being racist by doing this.'"

Main image: Bulelani Mfaco. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

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