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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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