‘I believe the Irish should have an open heart of acceptance’
2015-11-01 10:49:23 -

The Integration Question with Princess Pamela Toyin



Patterns of migration to Ireland started to develop in the late 1990s, as immigrants from Poland, Lithuania, Nigeria, India, Philippines, China and a few other countries arrived to live, work, study or seek asylum, as the case may be. Today, more than 15 years on, while their personal experiences may differ, one thing they all have in common is the experience of integration, sometimes positive and worthwhile but other times undesirable and disheartening.


For Iniobong Usanga, a human rights advocate living and working in Cork, settling in Ireland has been a “beautiful” experience. Describing Ireland as a country with a heart of compassion, Ini – as her friends call her – says she has settled well into her community, being active in community service, working and volunteering in various capacities with different development agencies.


Ini came to Ireland in 2001 from Nigeria for “security reasons” having being “forced and bullied” out of her home country, she says. For a woman who was “disowned” by her mother for not wanting to accept her arranged marriage, Ini has picked the pieces of her life and made something meaningful out of it.


“I am a strong, independent and focused lady,” she says. “I went back to college and studied public health and health promotion with a postgraduate [diploma] in rural development, food marketing and co-operative societies at University College Cork. I am now fully settled in Ireland with my wonderful children.”


Migrants often encounter challenges unique to their situation as new or recent arrivals as they attempt to adapt in their new country, and Ini is no exception. But she believes has been lucky to have seen mostly the positive side of integration. Talking about the native Irish, she says: “People are different; some are very welcoming and accommodating”. Yet there remains resentment over the discrimination and oppression often exhibited between natives and immigrants.


“I believe the Irish should have an open heart of acceptance,” says Ini. “Ireland is now a multicultural country, therefore it is obligatory that all people feel equal and have access and are provided with the opportunity to participate in all areas of Irish life: school, work, employment, politics, housing and play.”


Her creed is that people should treat others the way they love to be treated: “Choosing to love and accommodating the obvious: equality.” She advocates that more needs to be done in the area of education and awareness of the multicultural face of Ireland.


Based on her bitter experience back in Nigeria, Ini founded and manages Love and Care for People (LCP), an organisation that provides support and empowerment for children, young people and women affected by abuse, poverty and other social exclusion to take ownership of their lives. She says LCP was started with a mission to improve lives and promote safe, inclusive, equal, and thriving communities.


Despite the dwindling Irish economy affecting her access to job opportunities, Ini found her calling in agriculture – and has managed to excel in a trade mostly the preserve of men. She is also the founder and CEO of Best Irish Snails and was given an award as winner of ‘best presentation’ for the start-up business in the 10th annual Pinc Programme at the Rubicon Centre in Cork earlier this year.


That privilege of being recognised as one who is contributing to society is part of what makes her experience of integration in Ireland so positive. 


Indeed, she believes the multicultural mix in Cork city works well for her, and she is happy in her new home away from home. “I will love to give my best and make an impact here,”  she says, “but then I will love to do the same in my home country.”



- If you’re an immigrant anywhere in the world and have a story to share, whether on our own behalf or on behalf of someone else, please email echoesmediainternational@gmail.com.



Princess Pamela Toyin is a journalist and author with over 25 years’ experience in various roles, including as an executive PA to company directors, as a public relations executive, reporter, editor and publisher, research consultant and workshop facilitator.

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