2019 was undoubtedly a very challenging year for people seeking asylum in Ireland, a year in which the Direct Provision accommodation system reached crisis point. But the light of giving in response to JRS Toy Appeal overcame the darkness of recent controversies. So says Eugene Quinn, National Director of Jesuit Refugee Service Ireland (JRS).
Last year all existing Direct Provision centres were full, with more than 6,000 residents. According to Eugene, this forced over 1,500 men, women and children to be placed in emergency accommodation. “Efforts to open new centres resulted in high profile community protests in Oughterard, Ballinamore and Achill island. But the response to JRS Ireland’s Christmas Toy Appeal provided a welcome counterpoint to these controversies.”
Eugene adds that he was greatly heartened that by “the spontaneous generosity of so many individuals, students, parents, schools, businesses and community groups which meant that over 500 asylum-seeking children residing in Direct Provision and emergency centres received a present this Christmas.”
JRS Ireland says it would like to acknowledge and express sincere thanks to all who contributed so generously to the 2019 Toy Appeal with gifts and financial donations. The appeal was supported by JRS partners, local businesses and individual donors and the Irish Jesuit schools were especially generous, says Eugene.
The annual appeal traditionally delivers presents to children and teenagers living in Direct Provision. However, in response to the needs of asylum-seeking families forced to live in hotels, B&Bs and other emergency accommodation due to a lack of space in the Direct Provision system, JRS Ireland significantly expanded the appeal in 2019. Over 550 individual gifts were delivered throughout Ireland and JRS was also able to supply games, books and toys for use in homework clubs, social rooms and crèches in centres hosting families.
Eoghan Keogh and Padráig Swan oversaw a fundraising campaign in Belvedere College SJ to support both the appeal and JRS Ireland’s Education Fund. A Christmas party for asylum-seeking families living in emergency accommodation in Dublin was also arranged by staff and students.
Martina Crawford continued her coordination of efforts by students in Gonzaga College SJ and in Limerick, Grainne Delaney organised a very successful Christmas Pyjama Appeal in Crescent College Comprehensive SJ for the benefit of asylum seekers residing in Knockalisheen Direct Provision centre.
“The guiding principle of the JRS Ireland Toy appeal is that every child deserves a present at Christmas,” says Eugene, adding that “Due to the outpouring of support from all sections of society, the 2019 Toy Appeal was able to reach families in all Direct Provision centres not receiving gifts from other sources and also those invisible children residing in emergency accommodation.”