FOR Pakistani refugee Tauseef Muhammad Khan, living in the direct provision centre at the Kinsale Road roundabout represents the darkest, most tragic part of his life, but he says he will keep fighting for a better life.
Tauseef, aged 37, has been in Ireland since 2015, when he and his family sought refuge here from Pakistan.
Tauseef and his wife Sadia came to Ireland as they felt threatened and in danger from a political party in Pakistan.
Now, the Muhammad Khan clan have spent four and a half years in Cork awaiting a decision on an application to stay in Ireland.
“Our case was refused by the International Protection Office, so then we appealed to the Minister for Justice,” he says.
“We have been waiting two years for a decision and no answer. It is a long process, we don’t know how long it will take.”
Tauseef says it is a huge worry that hangs over him, his wife, and three children aged nine, aged seven and two.
“It is spoiling my children’s lives, growing up in direct provision,” he says.
“They are always going to remember this. It is such a mark on their minds all their lives.
“This is the most tragic, darkest part of my life — you can’t imagine.
“The Government should think about the families and answer quickly. It is a kind of jail for kids.”
Tauseef says he worries that it will be a negative decision from the minster, adding that he and his wife face an agonising wait for the postman every day to see if there is a letter with a decision.
“I have said to my wife, when we get our papers, we will never come back to Kinsale Road,” he says.
“Every day, we are waiting for the post; every day we ask each other, ‘did you see the letter?’”
Tauseef says the situation is like “a depression” for him and his children, who know their parents are waiting for their papers.
However, he says he does like life in Cork and that working in his takeaway, the Oregano Leaf on Shandon Street, keeps him sane.
“I like Cork — work is a relief for me,” he says.
“My wife used to work with me, but since schools were cancelled she has to stay at home and mind the children.
“My wife doesn’t get to go out at the moment.”
Through his takeaway, Tauseef is involved with a homeless charity organisation called One Human Community, and donates food on a weekly basis to feed people living on the streets.
“It is a tough time in the direct provision centre,” he says.
“It is very tough to be a refugee with a family.
“It has changed my perspective and given me more empathy for the homeless.”
Tauseef says the past four and a half years, living in one room with no kitchen or laundry facilities, has not been easy.
“It is a tough time, but I will never give up. I will keep going,” he says.
Speaking about the Covid-19 lockdown, Tauseef says it has been difficult on business, with his trade depending a lot on footfall in the area.
“Trade is picking up slowly,” he says. “The last three months have been tough, but we have had great support from our landlord; he has been very good to me.”
Tauseef estimates that business has dropped by 60% to 70% and they are depending on deliveries at the moment.
When not working hard in his takeaway, Tauseef says that in his spare time he likes to get out and about with his three children.
“I love cycling with my kids,” he says. “We go to Tramore Valley Park a lot. I try to spend good quality time with them. Spending time with my family is very important. We visit Kinsale and Dock Beach. I want to show my kids nice things and change their mind and change the atmosphere. I want to positively influence my kids’ perception of the world.
“We used to go bowling at Leisureplex and play games. We used to go swimming in the pool in Bishopstown and my kids were involved in the local gymnastics centre.”
Tauseef says Covid-19 has changed their lifestyle significantly.
“The children were happy to get the holidays at the start, but after a while they got bored; they couldn’t play on the swings or go anywhere,” he explains.
“Now they are missing school; there is not a lot to do in the centre. It is tough for everyone.”
The chef also enjoys playing snooker at the accommodation centre, where a lot of the residents play matches together.
“I’m pretty good at it!” he admits.
While Tauseef is not delighted to be staying in the accommodation centre over the past four and a half years, he said the centre has been managing social distancing measures quite well.
“We were all tested last month and came back clear — there are no cases in the centre. It was such a relief that we are all healthy,” he says.
The Pakistani native says he does miss home a lot, in particular his family, culture, and the festivals that are held there.
“I am not allowed to visit at the moment; we can’t travel,” he adds.
The older two of Tauseef’s three children understand and speak the Pakistani national language, Urdu, but they speak English more frequently.
Chatting about life in Cork, Tauseef says that he likes many things about Ireland.
“In Pakistan, there is 2.5m people in the city — no one says please or thank you — it is a rare case, manners are a luxury,” he says.
“I like Cork people, they are friendly and kind.”