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Celebration and Recognition – Donnah Sibanda Vuma

by Ian Nugent on the 13/04/2021

Writer’s Bio: Hi, my name is Ian Nugent. I’m from Dublin and I own chickens and love to cook… but not the chickens.

“For me as a black African woman, it [education] is an opportunity to break away from the status quo, and possibly a tool to help one emancipate from inter-generational trauma caused by racism, oppression, and institutionalisation to name a few.” (i)

Donnah Sibanda Vuma came to Ireland with her children in order to seek asylum in 2014 and has been living in Direct Provision while she awaits the decision on her international protection application. Even though many obstacles blocked her way, Sibanda has faced these challenges and, with the assistance of the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) scheme, has completed multiple part-time courses with various institutions like Limerick College of Further Education and Institute of Commercial Management (ICM), which enabled her to eventually enroll in University of Limerick.

Perhaps from her own experience in Direct Provision, Donnah has tirelessly applied herself to activism and the advocacy of human rights. She has been the co-founder of Movement of Asylum Seekers Ireland (MASI), which acts as a platform for asylum seekers to come together in unity and purpose, with the organisation demanding the end of direct provision, as well as the right for asylum seekers to work. Donnah also works with Doras, which is a non-profit organisation that works to promote the rights of people of migrant backgrounds living in Ireland. They seek to ensure that equality and respect for the rights of migrants become social norms in Ireland through personal and collaborative advocacy.

Ireland’s system for addressing accommodation for asylum seekers has been seen over the years as unfit for purpose, and many believe that the process - which keeps many individuals in such circumstances for several years or more - is inhuman. Those living in Direct Provision face issues such as a lack of privacy and overcrowding, with many cases showing that multiple families are forced to share the same room with non-family members: “It said these people are sharing a room with either one or two non-family members in 772 rooms across Direct Provision centres.” (ii) Individuals in Direct Provision also have limited freedoms: they are not allowed to seek employment or in some cases, further education and are denied the simple everyday task of preparing their own meals and meeting their own dietary needs.
Even after living in these conditions for several years, some are still issued with deportation orders and are forced to leave with little to no support. One individual recorded by MASI told the story of how he “…spent 5 years living in appalling conditions in [a] Direct Provision centre.” MASI reports that this “… ruined his life for 5 years” and that they gave him “…a deportation order instead of providing psychological support.” - (MASI, 2020) (iii)

Donnah seeks to ensure that future generations will not have to overcome the barriers that she and many others had to endure: “As a mother, I worry that my children could one day face the same fate as the 10-year-old child who was born and raised in Ireland then deported to Nigeria. Such cruelty must come to an end. The Minister for Justice and Equality must bring that child back from Nigeria. They belong here. Ireland is their home.” (iv)

References Accessed [30/03/2021] Accessed [30/03/2021] Accessed [30/03/2021] Accessed [30/03/2021] Accessed [30/03/2021] Accessed [30/03/2021] Accessed [31/03/2021]

i As Accessed [30/03/2021]

ii As Accessed [31/03/2021]

iii As Accessed [30/03/2021]

iv As Accessed [30/03/2021]

1 comment

Martin Dillon

said on 14/04/2021 at 12:22

Really interesting blog, well done Ian and fascinating to read some of Donnah's journey and experiences.