Christmas 2020: Nasc News Update
Like everyone else around the world, Nasc’s year has been shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. For us in Nasc, the pandemic quickly exposed the effects of inequality and social exclusion in Irish society with some of the greatest impacts being felt by people living in direct provision and marginalised communities such as Roma and Traveller communities.
Despite the many challenges that living and working through a pandemic presented, Nasc was able to respond to meet the most basic needs of people relying on our services. Our Legal Information Service moved to being delivered virtually, the women on our Gateway Project embraced the “new normal” of remote learning and the resilience of the children and young people in our Connect Project shone through. Our projects provided material supports from food, clothing and soap to supporting people who had contracted COVID-19 or those who were close contacts and self-isolating. Additionally, the communities we work with in our Community Sponsorship Programme continued to organise and are now awaiting the arrival of refugee families from Lebanon.
Nasc's Legal Service
Nasc's legal service assisted more than 1,000 clients from over 100 countries this year. Almost half of our clients were first time clients - showing the continuing demand for our service. The service moved to online and phone consultations from March in line with COVID-19 restrictions. Our team helped to reunite over 40 families from a two year old in Sudan to a 70 year old in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Connect Youth Project
In 2020 Connect worked with 95 young people, providing 326 interventions. This service offers practical advice, advocacy and support for young asylum seekers, refugees and migrants from non-EU countries. We provide step-by-step information and support with immigration applications, assistance in accessing education, employment, health services and accommodation, as well as support with integration and dealing with racism and discrimination. Besides helping young people to understand and navigate immigration issues, we also help them to combat isolation to become more connected with their communities, access and stay in education and improve their mental health and wellbeing. We also regularly support these young people to overcome homelessness, destitution or abuse.
Find more information here.
Gateway Women's Project
Our Gateway Women's Project went virtual in March. Since then our 34 participants have engaged in online yoga, cookery & stress management modules in addition to our core English language classes & our social work supports. Although we missed the in person interaction with the wonderful women in our classes, going online meant that we were able to add additional English classes, introduce Conversation Cafes and reach women from a broader geographical area.
We were delighted to be awarded funding from the Sustainable Cork Fund in October and are looking forward to 2021.
Read more about the project here.
Although the Irish resettlement programme was greatly impacted by COVID-19, we were delighted to have new community groups sign up - including our first group from Kerry. Two Cork-based groups are now at the final stages of their sponsorship application and we expect one refugee family to arrive before the end of the year. Work is also underway on developing a national Community Sponsorship Training Programme with Quality Matters. We hope to see the new training programme launched in early 2021. We have also updated our Community Sponsorship information page with new resources and materials and we'd encourage anyone who is curious about Community Sponsorship to check it out here.
We were delighted to add Nael Souad to the Community Sponsorship team in 2020. Unfortunately, Maria Bateman is leaving at the end of 2020. Maria has been instrumental in developing community sponsorship and at the heart of Nasc's work both with groups and in developing training. We'd like to thank her for her hard work and wish her the very best for the future.
An End to Direct Provision in sight
Throughout 2020, Nasc continued our work on direct provision and we wholeheartedly welcomed a commitment by the Government to end direct provision. Nasc, through our membership of the Expert Group on Direct Provision and the International Protection Process (chaired by Catherine Day) played a key role in crafting an alternative reception system, which recommends that the current system be dismantled and replaced by a system where applicants for International Protection live in the community and implementing the Day Report will be a key focus of Nasc's work in 2021. In essence the Day Report recommends integration, not segregation. We were pleased to partner with Dr Liam Thornton and UCD Sutherland School of Law for a series of one hour seminars 'Exploring the Day Report' in November and December this year. You can catch up with those seminars here.
Our work to amend the International Protection Act 2015 to remove the restrictive family reunification provisions continued. Although the International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill fell with the dissolution of the Oireachtas in early 2020, we were delighted to see efforts by Thomas Pringle, TD to have the Bill returned to the Dail Order Paper.
Nasc also published a research report Invisible People - The Integration Support Needs of Refugee Families Reunified in Ireland. Authored by Dr Karen Smith, Dr Muireann Ní Raghallaigh, Dr Derina Johnson and Azad Izzeddin on behalf of Nasc, the report highlights the many challenges faced by reunified families, including significant barriers to accessing housing and a high risk of homelessness, as well as difficulties accessing other essential services - all of which can hinder integration into Irish society. This report was funded with the support of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
Nasc would like to thank our supporters and funders who made our work possible this year. We were delighted to see a huge increase in engagement from people throughout Ireland following the BLM movement this summer and we were touched by all those who crafted, cycled and ran to raise money to help us support people in direct provision.
We would like to extend a particular thanks to the Tomar Trust, Rethink Ireland and the Cork Chamber of Commerce, HSE Social Inclusion Cork Kerry, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, the EU Funds Unit, The Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Tusla and Cork City Council.
From all in Nasc we wish you a very happy and safe Christmas and New Year. Nollaig Shona Daoibh.