Present day Ireland is a multicultural society. 17.2% of the total population is comprised of non-nationals from 202 nationalities (CSO, 2016). Included in this statistics are a vulnerable group of individuals seeking International Protection from the state, often accommodate in Direct Provision Centres (DPs) spread across the country. There are approximately 9560 adults and children accommodated in the DPs inclusive of those in Emergency Accommodation Centres where asylum seekers or resettlement refugees (EU migration crisis involving mainly Syrians, Eritrea, Afghanistan). In Cork and County there is approximately 250 families and 320 children living across six direct provision centres.
Empirical evidence and practice indicates that these families and children living in Direct provision centres are struggling to integrate into the Irish society. Barriers include lack of target supports, geographical locations of some of these centres, some of which are located in very remote areas, and financial constraints (the families are on €38 a week allowance), discrimination, prejudices and generally stigma associated with living in DPs, and migration related vulnerabilities/trauma among others.
Covid 19 related lockdown and restrictions added yet another layer of trauma to this population. The lack of own door accommodation made it difficult if not impossible to social distance as well as adhering to other prescribed protocols. DPs were among the HSE recognized vulnerability pockets that registered high covid registered cases with very adhoc isolating/management protocols.
There is a need for a coordinated approach by stakeholders in this field towards designing responses tailored to the needs of this population. Of importance to note is that, although the literature on asylum seekers and refugees tends to have a deficit and passive lens, there are huge strengths, resilience and agency as well. Responses therefore need to be framed by a conceptual framework that is holistic and takes into consideration the risks and strengths embedded in their migrant, racial/ethnic/cultural positions as well as the structures that frame their lives in DPs. But also one that creates an enabling environment for the families to rebuild their agency and direct or co-direct the interventions that are relevant and acceptable to them. The interventions therefore need to be framed within a human rights perspective that prioritize human dignity and value as opposed to a charity model.
The current project is premised on creating a ‘safe space’ at Ardefoyle, Ballintemple, Blackrock where families living in Direct Provision Centres, that we work with at Nano Nagle Place, Cork can create an International Garden to grow food from their own countries in solidarity with local community groups.
The aim is to provide asylum seekers/refugees/migrants in general an opportunity to be involved in gardening work in cooperation with local members of the community towards supporting their wellbeing and integration into society. The objective is to work towards creating a network of gardens in close proximity to the DPs in Cork, that are independently run but in consultancy with a committee from this group. The model becomes the connecting tool within these network of communities and across other ethnic minority groups involved in community garden.
The partners in this project bring huge and varied expertise, experience and resources.
Cork Migrant Centre, Green spaces, Food Policy Council, Johnson Controls, SHEP, Horticulture School
St. Vincent Department, Cork City Council, Social Inclusion Office, Community Garda, Anglesea Street Garda Station, Cork City Council (Parks and Recreation Dept).