Life for refugees in Ireland: ‘We have lost hope of getting a house’

Nearly 12% of people in direct provision granted asylum but cannot find a home

The Wanli family was temporarily given a home in the Mosney direct provision centre while they looked for accommodation after arriving in Ireland. More than two years later, they’re still living at the centre.

The Wanli family was temporarily given a home in the Mosney direct provision centre while they looked for accommodation after arriving in Ireland. More than two years later, they’re still living at the centre.

 

Hanadi Wanli and her three children arrived in Ireland 2½ years ago as refugees from Damascus in Syria. They were reunited with Hanadi’s husband, who had travelled to Ireland more than a year before and applied for family reunification for his wife, children and mother.

The family was temporarily given a home in the Mosney direct provision centre while they looked for accommodation. More than two years later, they’re still at the centre, and still searching.

Alma Harrack (15), the eldest of the three children, who now speaks fluent English, has spent hours on property websites sending emails to landlords expressing interest in homes on behalf of her parents. They have attended numerous viewings but never hear back.

“The main barrier to finding a home is that my granny has special needs,” says Alma. “She’s 83-years-old and in a wheelchair, so we had to find a house with a full bathroom downstairs. This is alongside the general difficulties of finding a home.”

Ms Wanli says many landlords react badly upon hearing the family are recipients of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).

“We’ve lost hope of getting a house, we’ve been waiting so long,” she said. “When you live temporarily you don’t feel comfortable. We’re being asked to leave Mosney but we can’t find anywhere.”

Nearly 12 per cent of people living in direct provision (700 out of the total of 5,972 residents) have been granted asylum but have been unable to secure housing outside the centres. Five of the 400 centres in Ireland are currently oversubscribed, including the Mosney holiday camp in Co Meath, where 693 people are living. The contracted capacity for the centre is 600 people.

Overcrowding

Overcrowding in some centres has become so acute that maintenance work cannot be carried out, even as centres are being asked to create more bed spaces “without sacrificing standards”, according to internal briefings recently reported on by The Irish Times.

Clara, who lives in the Globe House direct provision centre in Sligo with her husband and two children, received international protection in April 2018. Before that, she had spent seven years in direct provision after coming to Ireland from Nigeria. Like Ms Wanli, she has attended many viewings but never hears back from the landlord. Many request a reference from a previous landlord, but refuse a replacement document from the manager of Globe House.

“They hear your accent and that you’re not Irish and tell you the house is gone. My son was so happy when we got our papers, he was expecting we would be leaving soon. It would mean a lot [to find a home]. We will finally experience our freedom and do things at our own convenience.”

Nick Henderson, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council, said delays in the system combined with the housing crisis and discrimination towards refugees makes it extremely difficult for people leaving direct provision to find a home.

“It’s hugely difficult and deflating,” said Mr Henderson. “We would say you have two mountains to climb: the first is being recognised as a refugee and the second is getting out of direct provision and establishing your life in Ireland.”