In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Record demand for free food parcels in Dublin

Posted by seumasach on April 13, 2009

Migrant workers hit hardest by economic slump


12th April, 2009

The queue snaked through the city centre: hundreds of desperate people waiting patiently for a food parcel filled with basics such as bread, beans and sugar.

It was a scene that would not have been out of place in the Hungry Thirties or Eastern Europe under the austerity of communism. But it took place last week in Dublin – a city that was until recently at the heart of one of Europe’s most dynamic economies.

A record crowd turned out in the city centre on Wednesday for free weekly food parcels, less than 24 hours after an emergency budget had introduced drastic cuts to the economy. The queue stretched from the doors of the Capuchin Centre, headquarters of a Franciscan Order dedicated to the poor, all the way down Bow Street in Dublin’s Smithfield area.

Around 850 free food parcels comprising bread, butter, tea, sugar, milk, cheese, pasta, frozen food, tins of beans and a packet of biscuits were snapped up.

Volunteers working with the Capuchin monks said most of those in the queue were young migrant workers and international students fallen on hard times. Theresa Dolan, who has worked at the centre with its founder, Brother Kevin, for 20 years said that more than 60% of those queuing were not Irish nationals.

“Many of them are not entitled to any benefits in Ireland. These people, mostly young men, used to work in construction and have lost their jobs. Some have ended up homeless. For many of them this is the only place where they can get cheap food.”

Dolan said that last Wednesday the centre gave out one of the largest number of parcels since it was opened in 1969. “We have also started to put on extra breakfasts and dinners. The dinners are up by about 300 per day. We are seeing an awful lot more people over the last couple of months.”

She pointed out that the centre gets some donated food, but they had to buy most of it. The state gives the centre €450,000 a year, but its annual bill for food is around €1m.

“Ireland has the second-dearest food in Europe and we have to rely on private donations and charity to meet the rest of our food bill. The numbers looking for food have grown sharply since November. We would love to say that one day we could go out of business, but it looks like we are going to be extremely busy.”

One man who works with some of the people queueing is Patrick Maphoso, who left his native South Africa eight years ago to settle in Ireland. A teenage ANC activist in the northern Cape during the apartheid years, he predicted that the food queues will be even longer this week.

“Most immigrant workers don’t know where to go to get help,” he said. “This is because so many people from abroad are desperate. They are migrant workers and international students who have run out of work to support themselves in Ireland.”

The plight of immigrants in the city has led Maphoso to stand as an independent candidate in local government elections on 5 June.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: