Cork-based asylum seekers giving State food for thought

Cork-based asylum seekers giving State food for thought
Abid Hussain and Tauseef Khan in their premises Oregano Leaf on Shandon Street, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

TWO enterprising asylum seekers are cooking up something good on the cultural melting pot of Shandon Street with their new Pakistani-flavoured takeaway.

Despite earning just €38.80 in Government weekly allowances since they arrived in Ireland, and only being granted the right to work in 2018, Abid Hussain and Tauseef Khan have scrimped and saved the cash to go into business together and they have taken over the Oregano Leaf takeaway where their speciality Pakistani dishes are proving hugely popular with locals and Cork’s Asian community.

Their specialities include lamb, biryani chicken, flavoured curries and lentil dishes.

The Kinsale Road direct provision centre residents are now getting ready to take on staff and expand the business just a month after opening the doors at 54 Shandon Street.

Both men are from Karachi and have open asylum applications in Ireland. They’re hoping their show of entrepreneurialism will make the Government take note that asylum seekers are an important part of society while also inspiring others in their situation to try business ventures.

Abid, a professional chef, has been working 13-hour days, seven days a week in order to get the business off the ground, with Tauseef working similar hours.

Both have strived to succeed in the face of low allowances and conditions at their direct provision centre.

Abid saved every penny he earned working in a city centre restaurant to get the money together to open the business with Tauseef.

“I was lucky that the right to work came in a year and a half after I arrived in Ireland and I got a job at Lavish on Washington Street,” he says. “I met Tauseef and I had the idea to open this business.

“I had all the experience of working in restaurants and we came up with a plan. It’s difficult to start but slowly we have been building.

“We pay rent and taxes. We buy from several different local companies. Soon, we will be looking for staff,” he adds.

Determined

Tauseef Khan and Abid Hussain outside their premises Oregano Leaf on Shandon Street, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Tauseef Khan and Abid Hussain outside their premises Oregano Leaf on Shandon Street, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Tauseef says he is determined to remain a contributing member of society and hopes to one day be granted asylum so he can stay in Ireland.

“We put 100% of ourselves into the business. We want to prove that we are not people that rely on the Government, we want to do things by ourselves and manage our own lives. Both our families are suffering because we live in the direct provision centre.

“I can’t even explain how bad it is. My son, is eight-years-old and he is brilliant, but we are exhausted with this accommodation. My son doesn’t believe we are normal because his friends at school and at gymnastics have their own homes. Four years we have been living in a prefab with no kitchen.

“Still, we put everything into the business because we want to prove something. Give us a chance and we will prove how hard we can work.

“Abid pushes me and I push him because we want to succeed. We both work seven days a week.

Abid adds: “I barely spent any money for the first few years I was here. I kept it in my pocket because I don’t want a life in direct provision.

“We’ve had such a good response. We started out small but we are getting more customers from the Irish and international communities.

Tauseef has three children — aged one, seven and eight — and has been living in direct provision for two years.

Abid has two children — aged four and a one-year-old born in Ireland and another on the way. He has been in Ireland for two-and-a half years.

Both describe direct provision as like a ‘prison’ for kids.

Abid says: “Two and a half years is too much to live in direct provision. The health of my kids is compromised because they don’t have their own things. We have to use the same kitchen as everybody, the same linen. My son and my daughter are sick most of the time.”

Both Abid and Tauseef are determined to make the business a success on Shandon Street and with a steady stream of customers dropping in when this reporter visited, they are not far off achieving their goal.

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