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  • Northside East

Big Northside welcome for Syrian refugee Wassim

Friday, 22nd December, 2017 8:00am
Big Northside welcome for Syrian refugee Wassim

Mary O’Reilly pictured at her home with Wassim and Lolly, the dog. PHOTO: CLAIRE NASH

Big Northside welcome for Syrian refugee Wassim

Mary O’Reilly pictured at her home with Wassim and Lolly, the dog. PHOTO: CLAIRE NASH

A REFUGEE who had to make the treacherous crossing of the Mediterranean by boat is looking forward to spending Christmas on the Northside.

When the Irish Red Cross started placing refugees in accommodation, Mary O’Reilly gave a room in her house in Baldoyle to Wassim, a 26-year-old man from Syria. 

Mary, who took redundancy from Irish Life to look after her mother, who has since passed, said welcoming Wassim into her home, which overlooks Dublin Bay, is no big deal. 

“I don’t think it’s a great thing to do, I really don’t,” Mary told Northside People.

“Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s my nature, but lots of people take in an Irish person. What’s the difference: are we not all the same?”

“I have a house here with a spare room and I heard somebody say - and it was so true - the only difference between them and us is luck and it is, it’s just luck.” 

“It could have been me, you know, so it was conscience. I kind of felt they were running for their lives. I felt it was the right thing to do, and I’ve been blessed in everything I have.”

Wassim, who has been living with Mary and Lolly, the Tibetan Terrier, since July, said he has really settled into Baldoyle.   

“I have two buses – the 32 and 29 – which go into town from here and the train station is very close as well,” he told Northside People.

“Mary’s house is very lovely, it’s by the sea and it’s very nice inside. Before I came to Ireland I didn’t know anything about Irish people, but when I arrived I found Irish people are very friendly.” 

Wassim comes from Al-Zabadani, a city located high in the mountains on the Lebanese border in southwestern Syria.

His father ran a construction and agriculture business where they grew apple and peach trees. He had been working as a manager with his father and was going to take over the family business. However, his home and the business have since been destroyed. When the war started taking its toll, the family left for Lebanon in 2013 and in January 2016, Wassim and his cousin Rami (17 left Lebanon for Turkey. 

Wassim and Rami made their way to Greece via the treacherous crossing of the Mediterranean by boat. 

When they arrived in Greece they were in a camp for 16 days. They then moved into a hotel on the island of Samos before heading to Athens.

When Wassim arrived in Ireland he stayed in Balseskin reception centre. He was then resident in the former Jesuit university - Hatch Hall - in Dublin 2. 

Wassim lived there for a year, and started to study English. He now works in an Arabic restaurant in Temple Bar. This not only gives him an income but also provides him the opportunity to clarify queries he has about the English language with other Arabic speakers. 

He looked for work in restaurants because he has in college in the afternoons so he needs to work by night. 

Wassim is very keen to complete his school study because he wants to do a degree in IT but first he needs to get a Level 5 in English.

The Irish Red Cross is facilitating the placement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into medium to long-term accommodation across the country and since August 2017, has placed 65 refugees into housing.

This follows on from a request made by the Department of Justice and Equality to the Irish Red Cross in the autumn of 2015 to manage a register of pledges for accommodation, goods, and services made by the Irish public on a charitable basis.

These pledges were made in response to the migration crisis in Europe and the Middle East. 

Read the digital editions of the Dublin People Northside East, Northside West & Southside here