Cultúr representatives Reuben Hambakachere, Joanna Fitzsimons, Tinu Achioya and Angel Marroquin who made their presentation to Meath county councillors.

Cultúr continues role to empower ethnic minorities

The housing crisis combined with the fact that some people have become “institutionalised” and preventing them from leaving direct provision accommodation, Meath county councillors were told last week.

Community worker Reuben Hambakachere was one of four representatives from the Cultúr Migrant Centre in Navan and Ardee invited to address the councillors on their work with residents of provision centres and emergency centres for refugees in county Meath.

He said that Cultúr supported people in the centres, some of whom did not have the right to work. It was a matter of concern that the housing crisis was preventing people from leaving these centres. They could not get accommodation, he said. There was also the problem of people being “institutionalised” because of the length of time they spent in direct provision. He had spoken to one man who had been waiting seven years to exit direct provision.

Tinu Achioya, Programme Manager at the Cultúr Centre said the organisation had now reached an impasse because of the number of people trying to access their services. In 2021 they had engaged with 1,438 people but so far In 2022 they engaged with 1,220 and they expected to surpass the 2021 figures by the end of this year.

They worked with people from 54 nationalities. The main office was in Navan but they now had a new office in Ardee and there was also a drop-in centre in Fingal.

The migrants were at different capacity levels so Cultúr used different approaches. The idea was to engage with mainstream services and there was a community work section within the organisation. Migrant leaders were sought out to ascertain the needs of the migrant community, going through a process of training, education and support and moving then to social cohesion. It was important to stress that Cultúr worked very closely with Meath County Council.

Ms Achioya said that their community integration work was very important. They worked with An Garda Siochana and with Meath Libraries.

Angel Marroquin, a community development worker with Cultúr in Meath and Louth told the councillors that part of their project was to challenge exclusion and inequality experienced by every migrant and expressed in racism, resulting in poverty and isolation. They had been carrying out 15 consultations with migrant and ethnic minority groups. Issues identified included language barriers, work-related injuries, accommodation issues, isolation, discrimination, transport barriers, lack of information about workers’ rights, lack of information about medical services and lack of access to services. Special classes on these subjects take place each week in Duleek, Navan, Ardee and Dundalk, all supported by 56 volunteer tutors.

Thirty-five Ukrainian families are also engaged in English language classes. One-to-one support and information is also provided. Seventy-five minors have also been supported.

“We are also engaged with service providers as well to create a network and to this end we work with local partnerships, St Vincent de Paul, libraries, Gardai, local schools and businesses”. They were about to host their first Diversity Day in Duleek and a 5k run and walk in Ardee.

Two thousand people had attended a Cultúr jobs fair in March. He ended his talk with “Go raibh maith agat”.

Joanna Fitzsimons, Project Worker with Cultúr and a native of Lithuania has been working on a European educational project aimed at training people or work and for access to employment. English language proficiency is a priority, giving people self-confidence to improve employment prospects.

There were 725 participants on their programme, 77 per cent of them women.

She said that she had been contacted recently by 400 Ukrainian people and while they had tried to engage them in various programmes, some people had to go on a waiting list.