I’m Irene, originally from the Philippines I have been living in Ireland for over 12 years. During this time I have worked as a childminder, a carer, a Marketing Manager, a balloon artist and, currently, I am on the Bobby Gilmore Fellowship with the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) and Campaign Organiser with the Justice for Undocumented Campaign (JFU).
JFU has been campaigning for the rights and regularisation of undocumented people living in Ireland for the last 10 years. We are a community made up of over 1, 000 members of all ages and backgrounds, and from over 50 nationalities.
As a community, undocumented people are currently facing many different challenges which have been heightened during the Covid-19 global pandemic. This has impacted our members badly. Many lost their jobs or had their hours cut back; some had no choice but to risk working through lockdown even though they had underlying health problems. Several home care workers went days and weeks without a break, with no extra pay.
Others were kicked out of their accommodation, faced the death of family members back home, which aggravated their emotional and physical stress and heightened their fear and anxiety. Many people we know got sick with the virus.
While many of our members are frontline and essential workers, like carers, childminders, retail workers, delivery drivers or cleaners, who worked continuously through the pandemic and lockdown, many still had to seek help in accessing basic living needs like food and financial support.
In identifying these needs amongst our community, I started sharing whatever I had; contacting my personal and professional networks in search of jobs; answering phone calls to talk to people so they felt less alone; assisting people to access temporary accommodation.
This led to the creation of a small group called ‘JFU Helping Hand’ which seeks to bring our community together to lift each other up when others are in need. The group enables the sharing of necessary resources like food, accommodation and various financial supports. Through this, we also saw the need for connection and so created a ‘social and solidarity group’, a place for members of the community to have a social space for informal chat, to have fun, laugh, seek advice, and build strong relationships, making sure everyone feels that they are part of the JFU family.
It is working well in many ways: members say they feel deeply connected and appreciated. It puts a smile back on their faces; they feel energised and inspired. This truly highlighted the importance of community, and despite how hard the global pandemic has hit our members, we were able to get through this together, for each other and because of each other.
Through these connections we all survived together.
JFU is still working hard to push forward to get a regularisation scheme, which would allow people currently undocumented in Ireland to regularise their situation. This would be a huge factor in helping our community.
My hope for the future is to get a regularisation. It will be a dream come true for me and many others. I will be able to visit my kids back home and fix everything I left behind, and come back here to work. I wish to open a business and be a full member of Irish society, help the economy and support others in the community.
Thank you very much.
Irene, JFU Organiser