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'It brought out that voice and helped connect me to others': This Cork radio station is helping asylum seekers tell their stories

The two-part series titled ‘Life on Standby’ will explore the stories of those living in Direct Provision and local Irish advocates.

Trainer Terri Kruschke and the asylum seekers who worked on the programme.
Trainer Terri Kruschke and the asylum seekers who worked on the programme.
Image: Terri Kruschke

A GROUP OF asylum seekers in Cork have created a radio programme highlighting life in Direct Provision.

Titled ‘Life on Standby’ the two-part programme hopes to give asylum seekers a voice in the media, with it being many participants’ first time getting a taste of radio production.

Taking part in a 10-week course last year on Media Expression at the studios of Christian radio station LifeFM in Togher, course trainer Terri Kruschke says the participants’ “confidence was soaring by the end of it.”

At the beginning, says Kruschke, people were nervous but interested. But when they realised they had the opportunity to tell their stories, their enthusiasm grew.

They learned how to conduct interviews, use audio recording equipment and how to write presenter scripts before being sent out to gather material on the streets of Cork. For some, it revived feelings they thought they had lost.

“There was a voice inside, but it went silent,” says Joyce, an asylum seeker living in a Direct Provision centre in Cork who was one of the participants in the project. 

Originally from the Congo, Joyce has been in Direct Provision for nearly three years and last September was given her asylum seeker status. 

“Claiming protection itself is a hope, it was a hope for me,” she says. “Getting into Direct Provision, it started killing that hope.”

She said her time in the centre impacted her and made her bottle up her feelings.

“But going through this media course,” she says, “it bought out that voice and helped connect me to other voices so there can be awareness and there can be a change in the way asylum seekers are dealt with here.”

IMG-20181030-Joyce Joyce says the project helped bring out her 'voice' again. Source: Terri Kruschke

Reaching out

Supported by CRAOL (Community Radio Forum of Ireland) and the Community Foundation of Ireland, the project was created to offer people living in Direct Provision a chance to advocate for change and for their voices to be heard on radio.

There were six participants from different Direct Provisions centres in Cork City involved. Kruschke says the aim was to have them interview other asylum seekers in Direct Provision about what their lives were like.

“We talked a bit about sharing stories, but trying to look forward,” she says. “The stories are real, they were willing to talk about the realities of what it’s like.”

She says they tried to balance the negative aspects with the positive – like the work opportunities available to asylum seekers, and what life is for those asylum seekers who had made it out of the Direct Provision system and are currently living and working in Ireland.

They also focused on interviewing Irish community members who do work and advocate for those in Direct Provision like Sister Josephine McCathy who works at the Cork Migrant Centre and helps asylum seekers in Direct Provision learn english.

Reaching out to Irish community members through audio vox pops also showed that some citizens are not even aware of the people living in Direct Provision and what life is like for them.

Sam* soon learned he had a passion for educating people about the situation of people like himself who are living in the centres.

“I just wanted to make myself busy and use the platform and be a voice for other asylum seekers,” he says.

He says he wants to advocate for a change in the current system and through doing the project, realised that many Irish people were supportive of his cause.

“I believe when people hear this…things will be done,” he says. “That would bring so much joy to us.”

The programme will be split into two 50-minute segments and will air on 14 and 15 January at 11:10am on LifeFM.

Other community radios stations are also taking in similar projects says Kruschke, who hopes the programme will help inspire, educate and advocate for change in the Direction Provision System.

*Sam is not his real name.

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