This is how it feels when your life is "in limbo."
When Noreen and her daughter came to Ireland, the government put them in a hotel room. It was supposed to be temporary.
Almost six years later, they are still living there. But not because they want to be. In fact, all Noreen wants is to get out of there and have a normal life.
Noreen is seeking asylum in Ireland.
She fled her home country to seek international protection, but her application for asylum is taking an incredibly long time to process. The only thing to do? Wait in a Direct Provision center — one of dozens of hostels, hotels, and mobile home parks across Ireland that have been converted into housing centers for asylum seekers. So she waits, and waits ... and waits.
She's not allowed to work.
It's illegal. No asylum-seeker is allowed to access the labor market in Ireland no matter how long their application takes or how much they want to contribute to society. (Ireland is one of only two European Union countries to deny people this right, by the way.)
She's losing her health.
She says that when she first got to Ireland, she felt fine. “My brain was functioning normally. But ever since I got there, I lose my mind. I lose my temper." Not only has she lost her optimism, but she's also been losing her hair — the doctors say it's stress-related, but she wonders, "if stress could remove my hair, what's next?"
She's afraid for her daughter.
Living in a small room with little space to play and few opportunities to experience "normal" society isn't an ideal way to grow up. But there really isn't an alternative — and their home country is too dangerous to return to.
She's not the only one.
There are over 4,300 asylum seekers in Ireland.
That's 4,300 people stuck in limbo, living in these Direct Provision centers.1,600 of them are children. 600 of them have been waiting there for over seven years. And with single rooms assigned to entire families, often with shared bathroom facilities, the conditions are very far from ideal.
On paper, the system may not sound terrible — that's what the Irish government argues, anyway. Asylum seekers are allowed (ahem, forced) to live in these centers free of charge, and they are given three meals a day (in other words, they're not allowed to cook for themselves). Children are allowed to attend primary and secondary school … but are not given access to Ireland's free third-level education program, no matter their grades.
Each adult asylum seeker gets an allowance of €19.10 per week (as of April 2015, that's about $20.67 USD) and €9.60 per child to use for school books, medications, soap, and all other day-to-day expenses. That allowance has not increased at all since the system was implemented in 1999.