Living in direct provision can lead to children feeling a stigma that makes integration difficult, migrants say

Some 24 migrants say they find Cork a welcoming city but still warn about the dangers of discrimination

The direct provision system can often leave immigrant families with a stigma that makes it difficult for them to move out of such accommodation and integrate into the local community, a report on the experience of migrants in Cork has found.

According to some of those interviewed for We are Cork: Stories from a Diverse City, several found themselves living in direct provision for several years with some reporting that their children were born in direct provision accommodation which can often lead to the children feeling a stigma.

Cilly Tshamano Ndeo, who grew up in Pretoria in South Africa but moved to Cork in 2000, told how her children now feel free and liberated after they moved out of direct provision compared to how they interacted with their friends while still living in direct provision.

“I feel my children are now free and the stigma they got when they were at the centre is no longer there. My children used to feel very uncomfortable interacting with other kids in their schools or playing with them because of the things they were told about living in a direct provision centre.”


Ms Ndeo is just one of 24 migrants who shared their experience of life in Leeside with Nasc, the migrant and refugee rights centre based in Cork. Their stories are documented in the report by author Cecelia Amabo .

According to Nasc, 535,475 migrants from more than 200 countries have come to Ireland since 2000. In 2016, the census recorded Cork saw the largest increase in its non-Irish population in Ireland with the number of non-Irish residents rising by 17.2 per cent between 2011 and 2016.

Seven of those interviewed by Ms Amabo have lived in Ireland for more than 20 years, including Pastor Dickson Aribasoye.

Originally from Nigeria, Pastor Aribasoye holds a degree in theology. In his account he detailed how when he first arrived, he experienced feelings of isolation in a much less diverse Cork.

“Community integration at the time we got here was very difficult. It was almost impossible at the time,” Pastor Aribasoye said.

“There was so much tension in the atmosphere, fear of the unknown by the Irish people, especially the elderly women.”

Pastor Aribasoye also told of frequently being the target of racist abuse on the streets when he first arrived in Ireland, but he believes that with increased diversity in Cork City, things are changing for the better and people are more accepting of difference.

“I have lost count of how many times I got abusive words on the street,” he said.

“I can’t tell you how many times people would use words like ‘F**k you coward, go back to your country, you are not welcome here’… the streets were not very safe for us but now I am happy things are gradually changing.”

However, another migrant, Br Kevin Mascarenhas, who was born in Karachi in Pakistan but is a Canadian citizen, said there was “still a lot of racist incidences in Cork against migrants and more so against Muslim migrants”. He urged the Government to work to eradicate such racism.

Stella Aigbogun, who is originally from Nigeria but now an Irish citizen, also said that she did not feel safe in Cork. “People are not safe on the streets any more. This is a general thing but with migrants, they are often intimidated and racially discriminated upon.”

Another interviewee, Somali- Irishwoman Nura Hagi noted that black and Muslim communities faced discrimination in accessing housing in Cork and the inability to access long term accommodation impacted on migrants’ ability to forge strong relationships with neighbours and local communities.

While some interviewees spoke of individual acts of kindness by Corkonians, Roos Demol, who moved to Cork from Belgium in 1998 and is well known as a passionate advocate for refugees and asylum seekers, said that she was careful about describing Cork as “a welcoming city” for migrants.

“Not everyone in the city is as welcoming,” Ms Demol said.

“There is a lot of showcasing people welcoming migrants in Cork but that is not always the case, because we still see a lot of stereotyping, people still being discriminated against because of their skin colour or how they speak and how they dress.”

Four of those interviewed married Irish people and one, Joanna Dukkipati from Mumbai in India, spoke about how her marriage to an Irishman from Cork had given “protection compared to others and the stories I hear daily”.

Nasc chief executive, Fiona Hurley pointed out that some 20 of the 24 interviewees raised the issue of underemployment and the lack of decent work opportunities for people from a migrant background in Cork which was hindering their progression in society.

A 2020 ESRI study found ethnicity played a significant role in barriers to employment with statistics showing black African people were likely to experience the worst outcomes in accessing employment which, for most migrants, tends to involve low pay, shift work and temporary contracts, she said.

“We hope that this publication provides a snapshot of the diversity of Cork City and the strength and resilience of our new communities. ‘We Are Cork: Stories from a Diverse City’ shows how integral migrant communities are to the fabric of our city,” Ms Hurley said.

“The report shows that there is still a lot of work to be done – particularly in tackling racism and discrimination and underemployment however, there are also plenty of positives in people’s experiences of Cork. Overall people felt a sense of safety in Cork and believed that it was a good place to have their homes and raise their families.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times