Key community couple refused refugee status
AIT Students and community volunteers facing deportation after four years in Direct Provision
David and Fortunate Nesengani suffered persecution in South Africa because of Fortunate’s Zimbabwean nationality. They moved around trying to escape it, experiencing violence in Cape Town, and eventually made their way to Ireland in 2016 to claim asylum. Due to communication difficulties and difficulties in recounting traumatic events of many years ago, they were refused refugee status and were set to be deported on March 19, 2020.
David is a second year Social Care student on work placement in Gateway Athlone. He volunteers with New Horizon in the Community Garden in Lissywollen, and has volunteered in care homes in the past. His wife is an active community volunteer in her church’s Sunday school, the Direct Provision Centre Homework Club, and several Athlone care homes. She is studying on the Access Course with a view to a degree course next year, like her husband. They both are keen to be eventually granted the right to work and earn a living for themselves, and to get out of Direct Provision. The couple are valuable members of the community and have displayed resilience, initiative and drive.
The then Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, visited Fortunate in her caravan at Lissywollen Direct Provision Centre last January, in recognition of her work in assisting a fellow Direct Provision resident when he was dying. She informed his family, arranged his funeral, found places for his family to stay for the funeral, and ensuring he got a dignified farewell.
Ironically, the Minister’s visit happened around the time that her deportation order was being signed off by civil servants, though the couple were not told of the decision until some time later.
The Minister for Justice has the power to grant those refused refugee status leave to remain on humanitarian grounds. We implore him to do so, so that the valuable contributions they continue to make to the community in Athlone are not lost.