Seeking Asylum in Ireland


Dromantine Novena: Sr. Majella McCarron is joined by Justin and Stephen who share experiences of the asylum process.


The illustration from the front cover of Fr. Alan Hilliard's booklet "Open Hearts Open Arms". Image courtesy of the Sacred Heart Messenger website.


‘Refused Asylum Seekers’ was the theme during the seventh day of the Annual SMA Novena to St.Therese which took place last Friday, 29th September, at Dromantine, Co. Down.  Sr. Majella McCarron, OLA was invited to speak on the subject at both Novena sessions.

Sr. Majella focused on the four verbs used in Pope Francis’ recently released World Day of Migrants and Refugees message: To welcome; to protect; to promote and to integrate.

In recent times Sr. Majella has travelled to Belfast to gain a greater insight into the lives of asylum seekers in Northern Ireland. She highlighted the plight of refused asylum seekers from the jurisdiction in the morning Novena session by introducing Mr. Justin Kouame to share his story with the congregation.



Mr. Justin Kouame. Image courtesy of


Mr. Kouame is Chairperson of Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS) and originally from the Ivory Coast. He explained that once a refugee is refused asylum, their financial and accommodation supports are withdrawn after 21 days which leaves one on the margins of destitution.

During the evening Novena session, Sr. Majella introduced Stephen Ng'ang'a, who arrived in Ireland from Kenya in 2005.

stephen, fergus and majella.jpg


Stephen Ng'ang'a, Sr. Majellla and Fr. Fergus with a piece of wood from a stricken migrant boat and a chalice carved from similar wood. Image courtesy of the Dromantine Conference and Retreat Centre Facebook page.


The Dromantine Retreat and Conference Centre Facebook page shared the following account of Stephen’s address:

Stephen told us how he left his country in 2005 with a case of all his worldly goods and leaving his daughter behind. He arrived in Ireland moving all the time between Mayo, Roscommon before settling in Dublin. The thought of better life for him and his family was his dream but it took many years of hardship and no money before he was among the lucky ones to get his ‘papers’. He told of one hot day whilst out walking with his daughters to see a little girl eating an ice cream. His daughters asked him for one but he had to say ‘no’ as he had no money. He said it broke his heart that he was unable to give to his daughters what a father should be able to do.”

In keeping with the theme of boats and migrant crossings, a special chalice was presented.


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A piece of wood from a stricken migrant boat and a chalice carved from similar wood. Image courtesy of the Dromantine Conference and Retreat Centre Facebook page.


The chalice belongs to Fr. Alan Hilliard, Co-ordinator of the Chaplaincy Service at Dublin Insititute of Technology (DIT). While on a humanitarian mission in Calais, France, Fr. Alan happened upon some wood along the English Channel coastline. He felt it must have been from a stricken refugee boat. He brought the wood home and it was carved into a chalice, symbolising the migrants who lost their lives in the hope of a better one.

Fr. Hilliard’s booklet titled “Open Hearts Open Arms: Welcoming Migrants to Ireland” was published in 2016 by the Sacred Heart Messenger. It aims to help foster an understanding of the plight of migrants that lead to action in the local faith community.


- Links

  • Justin Kouame speaks here to BBC Radio about his situation and the work of NICRAS.
  • Click here to visit the NICRAS website.
  • Click here for more on Fr. Alan's booklet "Open Hearts Open Minds".
  • Click here to visit the Dromantine website.
  • Click here to visit the Dromantine Retreat and Conference Centre Facebook page.