The Integration Question with Princess Pamela Toyin
With its deep history and natural beauty, Ireland has always fascinated Guelya Soenmez, a Dublin City University graduate of Kurdish-German origin who moved to Dublin in 2010 to work as an au pair for a family in Dun Laoghaire.
Since then, it has been a journey of cultural enrichment – and experiencing the Irish as welcoming and very helpful people, from friends and colleagues at DCU to her partner, another significant factor in her integration process and making Ireland her home.
For the former Miss Ethnic Ireland, adapting to cultural differences and integrating into Irish society has posed few problems because “being multicultural and well-travelled has certainly enriched my knowledge of different ways of living and easy adaptation of the given host country and culture.”
Raising awareness and supporting the eradication of female genital mutilation, or FGM, the beauty pageant organised by the Ifrah Foundation was a great experience for Guelya, who found it fit perfectly with her own interest in human rights, particularly women’s issues.
“I like to promote the equality and safety of women and girls around the world and believe that every change starts with a small step,” she says.
Currently employed with a premium healthcare insurer and very much enjoying her job, Guelya is looking forward to progressing in her career. She does express concern for some of her friends, who have had difficult experiences with economic, social or cultural barriers. But she notes that “Ireland is slowly changing its face and embracing its migrant force, be it in public life or entertainment, so as a multicultural society Ireland has to embrace its migrants and advocate integration.”
Despite the falling number on the Live Register, unemployment is also a concern to Guelya, who would like to see more opportunities to engage recent graduates.
“Like anywhere else, the job market in Ireland is staggering and people are struggling to find suitable positions in their fields,” she says.
Indeed, employment is a bigger issue than racism for Guelya, who says that as a migrant she has never experienced any form of racial discrimination, though she acknowledges it continues to be an issue for others.
“Irish people as a whole are very welcoming and understanding of migrants needs,” she believes. “In particular, understanding the important role they play in Irish society. It goes without saying that even MPs and Irish footballers have migrant backgrounds.”
It’s other shortcomings of Irish life that get to her more. “As someone from Germany, I find it difficult to adjust to public transport and hospitals,” she says. “I find it appalling that a sick person has to wait over 12 hours, if you are lucky, to be seen by a doctor in Dublin hospitals. That is something very important to me and I would like to see this improving.”
Guelya also wishes for Ireland to further widen opportunities given to migrants to climb the ladder of success, and continue into the century as a fully multicultural nation.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.