A fiver a day in Ireland cont'd
As part of the Still Human Still Here campaign which Freedom from Torture is part of, staff and supporters are joining STAR for a week of action in support of asylum seekers (20-26 February 2012). Here Sarah Byrne, 27, blogs about her experiences of living on £5 per day (the national asylum allowance). Sarah is a postgraduate from Ireland and is employed as a mental health development worker. She hopes to pursue a PhD programme in bioethics in the future.
The last four days
My Thursday was spent much the same as Wednesday, convalescing. The upshot being that I did save nearly 15 euro on bus fares. I've never been more excited about being sick! On Friday, having recovered somewhat I had a spring in my step with my unexpected wealth. I decided to revert to old habits perhaps and treat myself to a very nice lunch which totalled 10 euro. I felt like all of my Christmases had come at once, I had never known such luxury and I realised how much I took something as unconscious as eating out in a restaurant.
I anticipated the weekend to be the most difficult period to avoid spending money. I live outside the city and if I am to indulge in a night out, it usually costs the princely sum of 25 euro to get a taxi home. Coupled with drinks and a meal, a evening in town can easily amount to 60 or 70 euro. To keep consumption at bay, I decided to spend most of the day walking and went for a skate too. Having spent nothing on Wednesday & Thursday, I still had 32.70 from Friday until Sunday! If I was facing another week of living off of 43.20 (UK Sterling equivalent of 32.70) I would have attempted to put some money aside. I could see my thinking around spending was beginning to slip and regress as the finish line of Sunday came closer.
I spent the remainder of my 32.70 on food for the weekend and also on three bus fares (Bus fares: 9 euro, food & drink 23.70) and by Sunday had no money left.
I learned a great deal from this experience. Firstly, I learnt that it is difficult and incredibly challenging to change my habits around spending that at this stage of my life seem almost inherent. Prior to commencing, I spoke with Freedom of Torture about trying to live off 6 euro a day (£5 a day). In reality, this is not the situation in Ireland as asylum seekers receive 19 a week. If I were to live off 19 euro a week, I could quite simply not leave my house and eat at the same time. I wavered between wanting to make genuine changes to my spending but also realising that my week's budget was transient.
I want to write that this experience made me feel privileged and re-evaluate my relationship with money, and yes it did do that. However what is crucial to how asylum seekers experience life in their 'host' country is how they are treated- economically is just one expression of this. The life of one human is worth neither more or less than the next person and the government's treatment of this vulnerable group is just another example of placing economic value on an individual's existence. Additionally, the government or the Irish political landscape is not to blame entirely for this situation and there is a sentiment of resentment that will always be present in some form in the Irish public.
Total Expenditure: £36.70