Asylum seekers open community garden in Galway

Salthill direct provision centre provides plot for residents

Sweetpea, coriander, potatoes, peas and broccoli are thriving in Galway’s first community garden run by asylum seekers in a direct provision centre.

These and more vegetables have been planted by some of the 146 residents of Salthill’s Eglinton “reception centre” on reclaimed waste ground behind the former hotel.

"We are doing this, not just for ourselves, but to show Irish people that we can do something useful," Vincent Misariro from the Congo says.

Mr Misariro is one of five members of a committee that developed the garden, which was opened yesterday by Mayor of Galway Donal Lyons.

Leading the garden committee is Lyudvig Chadriyan from Armenia, who, like Mr Misariro, has been seeking asylum for four years. "Six months ago we began to clean the area . . . and then we began planting," Mr Chadriyan said. Monica Ubaka from Nigeria, in Ireland for six years, said the crops were for the centre's kitchen.

Good rapport

Community activist Brendan “Speedie” Smith says the vegetable, fruit and flower area is just one part of a project which will have a rockery, a natural habitat area, and an adventure playground and nature trail.

Garden furniture, tools and bat boxes were donated by the Ballinfoile men’s shed group, he says, and a Galway City Partnership/HSE West fund paid for training and materials.

Smith, community/education officer with the Digital Enterprise Research Institute at NUI Galway, has worked with asylum seekers for 10 years, often in a voluntary capacity. He set up an internet cafe in the Eglinton in 2006, and teaches IT.

The Eglinton is "one of the few direct provision centres where there is a good rapport between residents and staff", Mayor Lyons said, when he awarded community gardening certificates to the committee members – including Zazuli Mamasakhlisi from Georgia.

A tribute was paid to Said Salah Said, recently deported to Tanzania. He had been active with the garden project.

Manager Patrick McGovern said he was delighted with the garden.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times