Celebrating Cultures, Promoting Integration
Moving to Ireland in 1998, Roos Demol is the brain behind Ireland’s first specialist recruitment consultancy & agency for Refugees, Asylum Seekers & Migrants.
Emigrating with her husband who was offered a job here in Cork, Roos never wanted to move to Ireland herself, “I followed him here,” she explains, “because my husband is British and his father was Irish. I thought it would be nice for him as well to come and find his roots back.”
22 years down the line, Roos is now the mother of 4 children and the CEO of her own organisation. She is making strides with an endeavour that is working for hundreds of asylum seekers and migrants who are struggling to stay afloat in a foreign land. While Ireland is often thousands of miles away from the horrors they may have escaped, it can still be a frightening and arduous experience.
“I’m a European, but I’m still a migrant. I moved out of my homeland,” she said. “Belgium is a country where you get so many things; we pay high taxes, but we get a lot in return. Affordable childcare being one, which back in Belgium was proportionate to your income. This cultural shock led me to blogging. I first started blogging about living here and my experiences, but after a while, I thought, I’ve talked enough about myself. So I started talking to other people who moved to Ireland”
Creating her own radio show in Cork by the name of Cork International Radio – initially meant for Irish immigrants around the world – the show widened its horizons to amalgamate the stories of those who chose Ireland as their home. “I would invite someone from anywhere in the world into the studio and talk about their lives and play their music and you know, talk about the frustrations and the pleasures and everything that is paired with being an immigrant in Ireland.”
A year of working within the migrant community introduced Roos to individuals who moved to Ireland from around the world. “I noticed that it was very hard for people to, First of all, find work and secondly, find work that they were qualified for,” she said. “I met highly qualified individuals who, through no fault of their own, turned into nobody when they sought asylum in Ireland.”
At the Business Network International Luncheon, an event advocating migrant employment, the idea for creating a communication database between refugee job seekers and employers in Ireland birthed “Recruit Refugees Ireland.” Establishing her organisation from the ground up during a global pandemic, Roos is collaborating with NGOs, the government, and academic institutions across Ireland, to aid over 200 migrants and asylum seekers throughout Ireland.
“The idea is not only to connect job seekers and employers but to make our applicants’ job-ready, to understand the skills they need to get the job and then to help them acquire those. Nearly 70% of our applicants have a third level education. Engineers, PhD scholars, academics are here cleaning toilets to survive and that is heart-wrenching to see. We’re hoping to change perceptions by doing this because people have the wrong idea. Life in a provision centres is far from when we know, provision centres are institutions that are privately owned, hence making their inhabitants nothing more than a source of profit for those running it.”
Asylum Seekers and Direct Provision System
A report by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination warned of “the negative impact that the policy of ‘Direct Provision’ has had on the welfare of asylum seekers who, due to the inordinate delay in the processing of their applications, and the final outcomes of their appeals and reviews, as well as poor living conditions, can suffer health and psychological problems that in certain cases lead to serious mental illness.”
In their crusade to help the community of immigrants, RRI and 12 other organisations have launched “Windows of Opportunity” – a program aimed at providing laptops as a tool for online education to their applicants “We have so far collected €10,000 and have already provided 40 laptops. With more than 600 applications we aim to keep on widening our program.”
Since its inception in 1999, the Direct Provision system has processed thousands of individuals, over 65,000 people have been provided with the status of an asylum seeker. More than two decades later, Ireland homes thousands of asylum seekers still in limbo.
“Asylum seekers are not allowed to work for the first 9 months of their arrival, surviving off €38 a week,” Roos says. “People with families to feed, their own traumas to deal with. These individuals are not here to profit off us, they are here escaping persecution or death for no fault of their own, driven out of their homeland, leaving behind remnants what was once their life.”
Individuals seeking professional, academic advice or support can contact the Recruit Refugees Ireland website
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