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‘Aside from the accommodation, I am happy. The children have integrated well, and enjoy it here’

New to the Parish: Esther Adegoke from Nigeria arrived in Ireland in December 2017

“Something just happened that called for our urgent relocation.”

In 2017, Esther Adegoke, aged 33, lived in Lagos, where she had grown up and completed a degree in business administration. A teacher in a private British school in Nigeria’s capital city, she was married and had two small daughters, living in Nigeria’s largest city. She had originally worked in banking, but changed careers for more family-friendly hours.

One day everything changed, and the family of four ended up travelling to Ireland at short notice, to apply for asylum. “We came to seek for protection.”

We’re sitting in a small communal room in the Eglinton Hotel in Salthill, Galway. Formerly a hotel, it was converted to direct provision accommodation several years ago. There’s a locked door to a storeroom. Adegoke gestures to another door, beyond which is a large shared kitchen, shop (residents get points on a card to buy food) and dining area. The food was previously catered, unfamiliar (“what is basmati rice?”) and available at fixed times; now residents cook for themselves.


The “something” that happened: Adegoke’s husband, Sunday (“Nigerians, they like names like that”), worked for a tax office in Lagos, auditing companies’ accounts. He discovered fraud and was asked to cover it up, she says. He refused. “Exposing that led to some of them losing their jobs, so we started receiving threats.” A campaign of intimidation included threatening letters and texts warning his life was at stake, Adegoke says. Returning after a few weeks out of the city, they’d been burgled, she says. “A lot of people came to look for us. The place has been turned upside down. They left notes, that ‘You might have escaped us today, but you will not escape the next one.’” The couple realised they had to leave, and they departed Nigeria within a month.

English language was a priority. From TV news they got the impression of chaos and knife attacks in the UK, of people “scared for their children”. Her husband’s friends told him about Ireland, “a small, cool country, not too rowdy, a place you can train up your kids. It’s a place you can start your life.” She had never heard of Ireland, and knew no one.

Adeboke recalls their arrival at night in Dublin Airport, December 2017. They had the address of a private house in Ballyboden in south Dublin. The taxi driver couldn’t find the address. She says: “He said, this is as far as I can go on the map, I think it should be somewhere around.” It was after 10pm, and they were stranded with two children aged three and four. “It was so cold, in the dark. My first time in Ireland, first time in a cold country. We were shivering on the road. The kids were like, ‘Mum, what are we doing?’ This lovely man driving by stopped, asked what we were doing on the road. He helped us find the address. He didn’t know me. He was so kind. He warmed my heart. Then the next day we find ourselves in the asylum system.”

The Ballyboden address was part of a service provided by a travel agent: getting papers, booking flights, contact on arrival, for a fee. The agent brought them into the city to apply for asylum. The service was “quite expensive” but “it’s fair enough”.

They were given temporary resident cards and housed in Balseskin Reception Centre in Finglas. It was a relief. “It was somewhere where you could relax, where you had your head down. We were treated well, there was food, the staff took care of us. We were given a room with the kids. There was medical check-ups.” They couldn’t work for nine months. Both Adegoke and her husband did short courses. She took classes in parenting and healthcare.

In late 2018, Adegoke and her husband were granted work permits, and the family was transferred to the Eglinton in Galway. “That was how everything started. My kids started proper school.” Her husband got a job in security. She was pregnant with their third child. She mentions a welcome event from NGO The Melting Pot, which supports asylum seekers.

The family has settled. Her husband did a masters in accounting and analytics at University of Galway and has a job as a financial adviser, and she works as a healthcare assistant with a private homecare provider, which she enjoys, and is also doing a part-time masters in applied leadership and management at Atlantic Technological University (ATU); it’s at the Castlebar campus, so logistics are complicated. They now have four children: three girls, aged 10, nine and five, who have settled well at school; and a boy of two. Adegoke attends Pentecostal church in Ballybane, and enjoys listening to gospel music. “We sing a lot.” She has recorded two songs she wrote, with a band, which are on YouTube.

The couple were granted asylum. Their challenge now is finding somewhere to live. All six of them still live in one room at the direct provision centre. With many beds, space is limited, and they have to stack their belongings. They want to move out and are looking for their own place.

Maybe some things that I will see as racism, some people might not see as racism

“Now we are six people, it’s not ideal. The comfortability, the privacy is not there, living in one room. Apart from that, every other thing is fine. Sometimes the kids will look at me and say, Mum, are you never tired of this Eglinton? I just want to get out, I want my own room. I want my space.”

It is a “serious problem now, because there’s no accommodation out there. You send a lot of information, you just don’t get response. The kids think we’re just sitting, we are not moving. And it’s not easy. Now I’m working. I’m also schooling at the same time.

“The urgent need is to get a place, so we are just still searching. Hopefully we’ll get soon enough. Aside from the accommodation, I am happy, because things have changed. The children have integrated well, and enjoy it here. The peace and the environment, the lovely people around. Irish people want to be nice to you. They make you feel at home. This is like home away from home. Because we’re able to move on with our lives.”

There’s pressure at direct provision centres for those granted asylum to find independent accommodation so others can be housed.

“For families, they are still a bit giving us time.”

“The major thing I miss about Nigeria is the culture. The way we raise our kids back home. The part where I come from, we are very cultured.” Children don’t call adults by name but “auntie”. “It’s like a sign of respect. A child doesn’t look straight into an adult’s eyes, because we see that as rude. If I’m giving you an instruction, to look straight into my eyes, we see that you’re daring me, that you don’t respect.”

Has she experienced racism here? “Well,” she considers, “racism not quite. Maybe some things that I will see as racism, some people might not see as racism. I’ve experienced someone talk to me in a rude way and the look in their eyes, as if you’re nothing. This is not general, it happened once or twice. Irish people are lovely, there is no racism among them but there are some people that do not like asylum seekers no matter what, so they will show it in their attitude.”

They do not intend to move back to Nigeria. “We are here now, we have a life here. We have two kids that are born here. And we brought two at a very tender age. Their lives are here. We have adjusted. It’s like home away from home.”

She travelled alone to Nigeria last November for her mother’s 80th birthday. “When I travelled, I miss Ireland. I want to go back. You can’t equate where you’ve used 30 years of your life. But I’m here now, going forward. I have seen another way of life, another way to do things.” Ireland has offered “opportunity to expand, opportunity for you to use what you have, to give what you want to give. Here you have the avenue to expand, to progress, to be who you want to be. That is the essence of life for me.”

We would like to hear from people who have moved to Ireland in the past 10 years. To get involved, email or tweet @newtotheparish