The Irish Refugee Council is committed to promoting and enhancing the lives of refugees. Much of our work has concentrated on the issues associated with obtaining protection in Ireland. This is necessary because of the particular system that has developed in Ireland, part of which is called Direct Provision. This leads to people spending many years awaiting a final outcome, and living with restrictions that limit their capacity to engage in their local community. Our work brings us into regular contact with individuals and families who are living in Direct Provision and we are very familiar with the impact that the system is having upon them on a daily basis. But we knew relatively little about the experience of people after they have left Direct Provision and moved into the community. This research explores what happens to people after they received their papers with a particular focus on their employment situation.

Between February and April 2014, we interviewed 20 people living around the country, of different nationalities, ages, genders, marital status and with varied backgrounds in terms of education and employment history. Each one was interviewed separately and their accounts recorded. The aim was to find out about their experience of finding work after they had been given permission to stay in Ireland and had therefore moved out of the Direct Provision system. We asked people to tell us about their backgrounds before Ireland, their experience of living in the Direct Provision system and what had happened to them afterwards with a focus on their ability to become self-sufficient.

This report is an analysis of those interviews. All of the people we interviewed gave information which revealed a strong commitment and desire to learn and to work hard in order to provide for themselves and for their family. Without exception they spoke very strongly and in highly negative terms about their experience of Direct Provision and the impact that it has had, not simply upon them but also on those that they lived alongside.

Their accounts revealed the monotonous and debilitating routine of their daily lives, exacerbated by the severe restrictions placed upon them and by the fact that those around them were also struggling. They gave us an insight into the reality of their lives after Direct Provision from which we learned that the process of transition and the attempts to obtain work and become independent of the state has been and continues to be a painful one. The people we interviewed had all been given their papers to stay in Ireland after the downturn in the economy. They know the situation is difficult and want to be a part of the solution to the current crisis. But their accounts also demonstrate the impact upon them of the years spent cut off from society, leaving them with gaps in their employment and education history, a lack of contacts and networks, wasted skills and time lost. They are accounts of the significant cost to them of their years of inactivity, but these accounts also begin to show us the long term cost to Irish society.

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