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Palestinian refugee – ‘the light in the dark tunnel’

Palestinian refugee Iman Matawi, who has worked both academically and practically with refugees in recent years in Egypt, was in Dublin with her Irish husband Darragh Murphy. During this time, she spoke with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications about her struggle, the recent Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) report and the bill to ban Israeli goods from occupied Palestinian territories.

Regarding the ongoing occupation of Palestine by Israel, Iman says: “The people are losing hope. They think the international community have abandoned them; no one cares about them anymore”. She speaks of being treated as not human in the airports when she attempts to travel. Many times she is denied a visa on the grounds that she is “stateless”. Referring to the trauma endured by Palestinians, she says: “They are scared to share sometimes their story because they feel ashamed to share their suffering”.

In the interview, Iman responds to the JRS report entitled Sharing Responsibility, Saving Lives by praising the humanity of the Irish people, but she points to a need for more engagement between the general public, organisations and the government. She suggests a more effective integration model, for example, one that teaches people the culture and languages of refugees. In her work with refugees in Egypt, she found that the public found alternatives themselves rather than the government. The participation of refugees in the workforce significantly boosted the economy. “If that could happen in Egypt, it still could happen in Ireland,” she asserts.

Iman and her husband attended a meeting with Independent Senator Frances Black in support of Palestinians on 10 July. The following day a bill to ban Israeli goods from occupied Palestinian territories passed its first vote in the Seanad. “This is the light in the dark tunnel,” says Iman, “because they think if people did something like that, that this means the people still care.” Listen to the podcast for Iman’s complete story.