Asylum case study: Transition challenging for applicants seeking homes

Mother of four children aged five to 15 spent seven years in system prior to residency

Emerging from direct provision is only the start of a struggle towards a “new Irish” life, according to several successful asylum applicants. Photograph: The Irish Times

Emerging from direct provision is only the start of a struggle towards a “new Irish” life, according to several successful asylum applicants. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Galway-based Nigerian Bisola Akanni is among more than 600 people caught in a situation where she cannot leave direct provision as she cannot find a home.

The mother of four children aged from five to 15 years spent seven years in the asylum system, and received her residency in late January.

She should be “celebrating”, she says, but it is not easy when the transition to a “new Irish” life is proving so challenging.

She is still staying in the Eglinton Hostel in Salthill, having been unable to find rented accommodation anywhere in Galway city or county.

“This is one more reason for allowing asylum seekers to work,” Ms Akanni says. “I have told the Government’s working group on direct provision and asylum seekers this very thing.”

Ms Akanni was approved for rent allowance capped at €750 for a four-bedroom house,but she has been unsuccessful in finding one due to reluctance by landlords to accept tenants on rent supplement.

“I have tried Tuam, Headford, Claregalway, Ballybane, Ballybrit, Knocknacarra, everywhere,” she told The Irish Times. “So I am continuing to stay in the Eglinton hostel where we have a very good manager. I found one house in Tuam for €600 a month which is below my approved entitlement of €750, but the landlord said he does not want rent allowance applicants,”she says.

Valentine Funwie Asafor from Cameroon, who has been in direct provision in Tralee, Co Kerry, for over six years, is in a similar predicament. He was granted leave to remain in the State on January 3rd last.

Difficult

“Looking for a house is very difficult because it takes some time to get approval for rent allowance, and then landlords are looking for a deposit and rent in advance,” the father of a two-year-old son explained. “When you haven’t been allowed to work and are receiving €19.10 a week while in direct provision, it is impossible to save this money,” he said.

Once successful asylum applicants receive their papers, which involves several stages, they are entitled to apply for social welfare benefits. However, Mr Funwie Asafor explains that he can only apply for rent supplement, and has been told he will not be able to avail of any other entitlements until he has an address.

“But when I phone and they hear my accent they say the house is gone,” Mr Funwie Asafor says.

He studied electrical engineering in Cameroon, and has applied for work with the ESB as he is determined to “get out of this social welfare nightmare”.

The Department of Justice, which is permitting more than 600 people to remain in direct provision, said it was “indicative of wider issues relating to housing”.