At the AkiDwA (African Women’s Network) AGM on 22 November 2008, African asylum seekers living in direct provision hostels – AKA Ireland’s holding camps – spoke about the real cost of the recent budget cuts, as their children are prevented from attending school regularly because the school bus has been discontinued. The women, who live on an allowance of €19.10 per week (an allowance not raised since 2001), cannot afford to pay the bus fare. And anyway, the children have to take three buses at times to get to school and are often late. How about that commitment to ‘cherish all the children of the nation equally’ made at the Irish Declaration of Independence, when these children are prevented from accessing education?
Other women living in these holding camps spoke about being denied their clothing allowance because they looked too well dressed. Even though they buy all their clothes in charity shops, they are at the mercy of welfare officers who decide how well dressed they should be. Other women spoke about being denied access to education while awaiting a decision on their asylum application.
Whatever about the (now defunct) ‘Celtic Tiger’, at this economic downturn time, the people most seriously affected by the budget cuts are these women and their families, the real ‘hidden Ireland’.