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  • Siobhan Casey

Wura's Story

Updated: Nov 17, 2020


Here we are telling the story of Wura, a girl that grew up in Direct Provision. If you wish to listen to the interview you can through this link..



My name is Wura, I was born in Nigeria and came to Ireland when I was 4 years old, I was

put into the system of Direct Provision with my family and we were in the system from

when I was 4 until 15.



[Growing up in Direct Provision]


I feel like I actually force myself not to remember a lot of it.

I have flashbacks of when I was 5-6 but what I remember very vividly was the ages of 9-14

when I was in primary school, I feel like that’s when it sunk in. Obviously I was growing up

and trying to understand what my life was, and it was very difficult at that age.

I don’t remember living in Nigeria at all. My mum would tell me stories about growing up

there, but I feel like my life started properly when I came to Ireland, all the vital parts of life

like going to school, going to college, everything like that was here.


My whole upbringing was in DP. The main thing I remember when I think back is about

where we lived. It had these huge gates and security guards outside. It was difficult going to

other people’s houses and thinking is this where I’m meant to be living too. As I got older, I

started to realise more of what I didn’t have. Around 9-10, was when you’d be getting

invited to parties and I was making friends with people in my school and all of that, so I’d be

trying to be like one of the Irish kids, talk in the accent and make friends, but I was like we’re

just from two different worlds.


[Do you remember why you moved to Ireland?]


I never really asked my mum about it; I could see that she was going through a lot. All I knew

is that my mum came to this country for a better life for me and my sisters, so I wouldn’t get

angry at her, like oh my god why did you bring me here to suffer. I wouldn’t think about

things like that, it was more ok my mum brought me here and I have to make the best out of

this opportunity. If anything bad happens just suck it up and smile whatever.


[ Finding it hard to relate to those outside of Direct Provision]


Even now the majority of mine and my sisters’ friends are people we met in the centre

because I personally feel like I can’t explain it to other people, they just won’t understand.

They’ll be like oh I’m sorry, but my friends who were there with me they understand, and

we can support each other. There’s just a barrier between, I don’t even really know what it

is, it’s like the gates that I mentioned before, between the way that I grew up and the way

that other people like my friends that weren’t in DP grew up, and it does create a barrier in

the friendship. For me it was kind of irritating if my friends would be complaining about little

things like not getting enough pocket money, or just giving out about stuff I would be so

grateful for. I just can’t be around that kind of energy, so I had to get closer to the people

who were in the same situation as me. Everybody does deserve to complain about their

problems, but I feel like sometimes people are complaining about the bare minimum.


When I saw the recent report [on DP] by the Ombudsman for Children I actually cried

because you can see that children are still being damaged by the system and nobody is

doing anything about it. These are children who have so much potential, they don’t deserve

to feel so isolated from the world that they’re trying to have a better life in, because when

you grow up it does affect you a lot. It’s just really terrible to see.

When I was in primary school, I didn’t know how [other children] knew, and they didn’t

even really know what DP was, they just thought that I was a foreigner in the country illegally.


They’d always threaten to call the police and have me deported. You’d be shocked,

these are children bullying other children who are in a really terrible situation already and

they don’t understand that, but they understand it enough to use it as a threat. For me it

doesn’t make sense. Where do they even get that information?


I feel like children are exposed to things that they shouldn’t be exposed to and they’re just

repeating what they hear and doing what they see. It’s just really not nice for children in DP,

because these are the children that you’re trying to integrate with, and these are the

children you kind of envy because you’re like wow you get to have an Irish passport and

travel and do all of that because you were born in this country. Whereas for me I have to

work for it and go through the whole system to get the same things.

Some people, even though they have their papers, still struggle to get an Irish passport. It’s

just very stressful to be honest.


[Friends still in DP]


My sisters and I still have a lot of close friends in DP and we often get messages saying I wish

one day I’ll get my papers like you. I try and convey the message of stay strong. I look up to

people like Tumi speaking up [about the system]. When you’re in DP you’re scared, and I

feel like you need to know and remember that you are worth more than the way other

people treat you. Because not going to lie, sometimes people do act like you’re a second-

class citizen and you’re not meant to be here. So just knowing you have as much right to be

in this country as anybody else is important. At the same time, I feel like other people in the

centre could be angry about someone speaking up because of the fear of retaliation. I

definitely wouldn’t be speaking up about it if I was still in the system because I’d be afraid it

could affect my status in the country as well. My mum wouldn’t have let me either, because

of that fear. It’s like whistleblowing basically.



[When I was in school]


I kind of just separated my two lifestyles – in the centre I was with

the DP kids and in school I separated myself and made friends with people outside the

centres so that I felt a sense of belonging. I don’t know how to make it not sound bad, but I

just wanted to feel normal and I felt if I hung out with the DP kids’ people would label me.


When you’re in DP they provide you with a bus to go to school so everyone would see you

come out of a bus filled with foreign kids and they’d label you as foreigners and people

would pass really dirty comments. I just didn’t like when people made assumptions about

me without knowing me, so I tried to separate myself from them when I was in school.

Some of my friends turned around and started passing rude comments about other people

in DP so I had to be like you guys aren’t the friends that I want, and I started hanging out

with the DP kids again. I know school can be difficult for everybody, but I feel like when

you’re in DP. . .teachers as well don’t understand what you’re going through. I needed extra

help with homework, not because I was stupid, but when I’d go home, I didn’t have the

facilities to study or my mum isn’t the greatest at English so she couldn’t help me with my

homework like other kids. I was trying to do everything myself without the support that

other people were getting, it was just hard. I think my mum bought Wi-Fi at some point, but

we didn’t have laptops or phones to access online stuff either, so I don’t think I’d be able to

do well at all if the current pandemic was going on. I was trying to remember was there Wi-

Fi at the centre and my mum was like no she bought it!


I don’t really ask my mum many questions [about life in Nigeria] because I know it’s a

sensitive topic for her, so much has happened, she just lost her mum recently too.

Technically me and my sisters are the only family she has. I only recently started talking

more about living under DP and because of that my mum has been slowly opening up to me

about her reasons for coming into the country. I feel like for everyone it’s a different story

and a touchy subject, but I don’t know the full story yet.


I don’t know why it took 10 years for us to get our papers here. I have two sisters that were

born in this country, but my little sister was so scared she’d be deported because she’s seen

it happen to people before, it’s so sad.


[When we got out of DP]

I was just finishing my junior cert [when we came out of DP]. I was so happy, but at the

same time I was so scared because after living in such a system and then going out into a

new world I was just like what’s going to happen, how will people be with me? Are we still

going to be seen as foreigners or are we going to be accepted? It was hard even looking for

houses and my mum looking for a job because she didn’t have experience, well she did have

experience but no relevant experience in this country. I feel like because me and my sisters

were older, we just supported each other, and it was hard, but we got through it. Me and

my sisters do try really hard because we want to help our mum in any way we can. Even

though we have come up it’s still hard because there’s so many things to keep on top of,

bills and everything like that.


When I was doing my junior cert, I learned about scholarships. I wanted to go to college and

knew my mum couldn’t afford it, so I worked really hard to get my education and do better.

I wanted to show that I’m trying to help out in this country. That’s actually why I chose

nursing because I do want to help people.


We were working towards a proper family holiday, but corona ruined that (laughs). I feel

like we’re now getting those little exciting moments that most people have already had. You

know those holidays to Disneyland and things like that. I just really want to go away with my

family and get to experience that.


I feel like everyone thinks that once you get your papers you get your red passport, it’s not

like that at all. After you get your papers you have to stay in the country for a few years

before you can apply for your passport. Some of my friends even though they’ve been out

of DP for a while, they still don’t have a passport. My little sister actually just received her

passport a few weeks ago so we had a little family party. That’s 16 years to get a passport!

It’s a long process! You know the way in some countries they have that[citizenship test you

have to do to get the passport, I would have so much rather studied for a test than waited

for that many years because oh god it’s not easy, it’s not easy at all.


[Changing DP]


For me what’s most important when it comes to changing DP is the children. I don’t feel

like there’s a way to just stop it, it’s not that simple, then what are you going to do for

people who come to the country, what’s going to happen to them? The system is so bad

they need to fix it in a way that’s less damaging. If they say you have to stay in DP for 6

months, ok make it 6 months, don’t be like 6 months, another 6 months, oops it’s been 5

years now. I have friends who are still in DP and they can’t work because it’s so hard to get a job when you have that refugee status. When I used to apply for jobs when I didn’t have my

passport, they’d ask for so much stuff it was overwhelming.


Another way to improve the system is to make sure people know their rights as a person in

DP, because I didn’t even know we had rights, or anyone advocating for our needs. I thought

we just have to go through this, that everybody knows we’re going through this and they

want us to go through this. I had no idea what we could ask for. When someone says no to

you, even if you’re just asking for extra food, you’re just like ok I have to accept that

because I’m lower than them, and I wish more people knew their rights.


Also, people going into college, I want them to have the same access to grants because

apparently you can’t receive a grant if you’re in DP because you don’t fall under any of the

categories. It’s heart-breaking because you see people your own age going to college and

you know you’re capable of it, but you’re just not allowed to have the same opportunities

and I think that’s really bad because so many people in DP have so much talent and so much

to give to the country and people are just saying no.


People just have that stigma or certain opinions of people in DP. They look at them as poor

people, you’re looked at as stupid. So many people have degrees and qualifications from

their country and if they could still work in the same industry, even if it was at a lower title, I

feel like people would be happy to do that, but you’re just not given the opportunities or

recognised the way other people are.


[Positives]

I feel like a positive take away from DP for me was just meeting friends, I’m telling you some

of the people I’ve met are friends for life. We go to the same college, and when we were all

applying, we had a group chat talking about what to do and that kind of thing. Like, one of

my friends her dad got deported so she didn’t have him to help her apply for college, stuff

like that, our support system is just different, and I think some friendships don’t have that

joint experience. We look back at some stuff and just laugh. That dark humour, or whatever

it is, we have together is amazing and I’m just so grateful for the people that I’ve met.


They should make a movie about DP because some of the stuff that goes on there is mad,

you kind of learn to entertain yourself and make your own fun. I did enjoy your friends just

knocking at your door. Stuff goes on that’s funny and you just have to lift your own spirits.

The best thing now is that people are seeing what’s going on and taking action, because it’s

one thing not knowing something is happening, but knowing and choosing to ignore it is the

worst part. Right now, we live in a society where you can find the information. Before, when

I was living in DP, I didn’t even know what the system I was living in was called I just thought

oh I’m a foreigner and I have to live in this situation. I feel like if I knew when I was younger

that DP was only supposed to last 6 months, I would have been so angry at the world,

because why did 6 months turn into 10 years of my life? I actually only found that out this

year! A lot of my friends have been in there for 5+ years so we just thought it was normal. I

thought some people were just lucky and got their papers earlier and some people have to

stay for the long run. I never knew there was supposed to be a maximum amount of time

you were in the system.


[Moved around]


I was moved around centres a lot too and I remember one place that I settled well, and I

made so many great friends, and then the next year we were told you have to pack up your

stuff and leave, go to a new centre. You actually just reminded me I have to look at my old

class photo because I had friends who were in DP and we didn’t even get to say goodbye, I

have to try and find them on Instagram or something and just be like hey! It’s funny but so

bad. There’s no warning or anything like that, it’s just move.


As a child it’s so hard constantly going to a new school and you’re just like will they like me

here, will I make friends that kind of thing. One of my friends was meant to be going into

third class but because she was moved around so much and missed a lot of school, she was

put in second class, so everyone her age was above her and she was just so angry. She

blamed her mum at the time too because she was like why do we keep moving, I want to

stay - it’s sad. I think they can tell you on the same day that you’re moving, they just give

you a few hours to pack. I mean you don’t have that much stuff to pack so they really don’t

give you much time.


[Donations]


We didn’t get any donations to our centre when I was a kid but I remember there were

volunteers who came, I really want to do this when I finish college, but they ran summer

camps which was the highlight, that’s where I started making friends in DP. At the start we

were all shy but when we went to the summer camps in the centre with the volunteers, we

were made to talk to each other and just be friends and that was a great part of it. It must

be really hard now during Covid for the people who relied on these kinds of social things.


The bane of my life when I was a kid was that you had to get the bus back to the centre at 4

after school so you couldn’t do any afterschool activities. I wanted to do basketball training

but if I didn’t get the bus back, I’d have no way of getting there because my mum didn’t

drive or anything like that. My basketball coach was lovely so once a week he’d drive me

home and drop me to the gates of the centre, I don’t know if he knew what was going on,

he was American, but because I loved basketball so much, he’d always drop me home. We

all loved him.


When it comes to socialising with people in DP, I feel like you shouldn’t even see them as

people in DP. Before my friends knew where I grew up, they just saw me as Wura, and I

don’t want them to see me as a DP girl. We shouldn’t create barriers for DP people to join

stuff, there was so much I wanted to do but because of my status, because I was in DP, I felt

like I couldn’t do it. Or I just wasn’t capable of doing it. [There’s a running club in Santry for

people in DP and people not] and it’s nice to have that mix because especially for me with

sports, a sport is a sport it doesn’t matter where you’re from. If you can play the sport you

can play the sport. I feel like that’s so important.


[Going forward]


I feel like people should continue to spread awareness and let people know

what’s going on with Direct Provision, because the more it’s talked about the more people

are going to be willing to help. Make donations and just try and do your bit to help because

it’s not easy.My name is Wura, I'm 19 years old. I go to college in UCD. I was born in Nigeria, and came to Ireland when I was three or four years old. I was put into a Direct Provision centre with my family, and we were in the system for 10 years.

Thank you for reading.


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