Cian Doherty reports from conversations about migration at Africa Day 2016.

Africa Day returned to Dublin’s Farmleigh Estate on Sunday 29th May for a celebration of all things Africa. An estimated 30,000 people came to enjoy the blissful sunshine at the family-friendly event, and the annual line-up of African music, food and culture was as special as ever. Now in its ninth year, the festive event marks the linkages between Ireland and Africa, as well as giving Ireland’s African community a day to celebrate together.

Much has happened in the international arena since last year’s outing, the refugee crisis particularly touching a nerve in Ireland. With all this in mind, I spoke to a number of the attendees about the day itself, migration and related issues.

What do you think of the celebration of Africa Day?

It’s very good, very exciting with the different cultures. I don’t know much because I was born in Ireland so seeing all this is pretty new – Anisho Namugere, Uganda.

Amazing! I think it’s very important for people not from Africa to get to know the beauty and the heritage and the amazing food – NC Grey, Nigeria

I think it’s amazing because there’s a lot of people in Ireland who are African. And there’s a lot of Irish people who’ve never been to Africa so it’s good for them to get a taste for African culture – Tina Nsubuga, Uganda.

8. Marang Letshabo, Botswana & Mags Lacy, Dublin cropped

Marang Letshabo & Mags Lacy

How do you think Ireland could be more welcoming to newcomers to the country?

Be more understanding. Everyone has a different story so they should learn other people’s and be open to other cultures – Anisho Namugere, Uganda

We need to engage with the newcomers more, like at events like this one. It would help integration a lot – Catalina Suarez, Chile

I think Irish people just need to be educated a little bit more; a bit more understanding and a bit more open – Gareth Sharkey, Blanchardstown

Through things like this. Getting to learn about us and know what we’re about so they can relate to us – NC Grey, Nigeria

Encourage Irish people to learn foreign languages – Oliver Plunk, Cork

In the past 10 to 20 years when the country opened its doors there’s been a very good reception. Ireland is on the right path and I think they’re doing a good job so far – Marang Letshabo & Mags Lacy, Botswana

We need to tackle direct provision and how we even do asylum in this country. Hopefully the single procedure will deal with that. I think it’s an absolute scandal that we still have people in DP centres up to 14 years. We have children growing up in institutions and it’s just not right  – Eithne Lynch, Dublin

More sessions or ceremonies like this one to get people to get to know each other – Vivian Mabuya, South Africa (winner of best dressed African woman)

Let them work! Give them the dignity of work. Direct provision is a disgusting way to treat anybody. And we’re all turning a blind eye – Pearl Whelan, Clondalkin

9. Saheed Ibrahim, Nigeria

Saheed Ibrahim

Can you tell me something interesting about your home country?

We have something called a new yam festival. It’s celebrated at the beginning of the yam season because we tend to see new yam as new life – NC Grey, Nigeria.

The people are very loving, very open. You can see that we were oppressed for years but there’s a lot of resilience there – Catalina Suarez, Chile.

Botswana is the number one capital of safari in the world. If you want to do safari, Botswana is the place to go – Marang Letshabo.

In Nigeria we dress a lot like this. We dress in the form of our culture and make sure we follow the tradition – Saheed Ibrahim, Nigeria.

Brazil is very diverse and we are in an important moment for the black community there. People are understanding how they can be stronger and are reconnecting with their African ancestry. Before people were trying to be similar with European people but now they’re prouder of their roots – Thais Muniz, Brazil.

Thais Muniz, Brazil

Thais Muniz

A way to go

Maybe it was something to do with the stunning whether, but most people I talked to seemed to think Ireland is on the right track and festivals like Africa Day is the way to integrate newcomers into Irish society.

The fact remains though that Ireland has recognised much fewer asylum claims than many smaller or similarly-sized countries, since 2012 (it’s 20 times fewer than Norway’s). Although if the suggestions from the contributors to this vox pop were taken on board, Ireland could proudly reclaim our reputation of the ‘land of 1,000 welcomes’.

Author: Cian Doherty

Cian is a Dubliner working for GOAL as a Donations Officer. He studied Arts in UCD and completed an MA in International Relations in DCU. Cian has worked overseas with UNAIDS in Malawi and has volunteered in Mexico and Mozambique.

Photo credits: Cian Doherty

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