"I left my country in 1996. I did not leave because I wanted to go to Europe but because I had to leave. I did not even know Ireland, I wanted to go to Belgium and do a PhD. I never thought of seeking asylum.
A professor of mine in Congo was from Leuven University and he had always told me to go to Belgium. As I had to leave I naturally went there.
Congo and Belgium have a very strong connection but because of the weight of history and this special relation, I went to Ireland instead, where I was obliged to seek asylum.
My first feeling when I arrived was: 'I am happy to stay here, I feel safe and I can start a new life.'
Seeking asylum was hard. Me, an asylum seeker? Back in Congo I was a lecturer at the university. I could see asylum seekers and every time I would think that it must be tough. You have to change everything in your life.
Once in Ireland, it was hard as I did not speak English at all, I was not allowed to work and I was attacked. I told myself "I'm educated.I'm not obliged to stay here. If they want me it's fine, otherwise I leave. It was really not easy. I would always ask myself "What about my career? What kind of job can I do without speaking the language?"
Back then asylum seekers were treated well in Ireland: I had accommodation and social welfare but I could not work. So I would sit at home the whole day. This was the hardest part.
Irish people are nice. They can be shy but if you're proactive, they want to find out more about you. I don't believe that they are racists. People are sometimes scared of the unknown but when you start speaking and they see you're contributing, you're working, they are supportive.
I think that migration is not too much about Europe being better than our countries. It's about the situation back home. People are moving because of injustice, inequalities back home; not because Europe is seen as heaven.
Migrants are here. It's a fact so there should be strong policies of inclusion. If this is not happening, migrants, the youth especially, will be frustrated.
The children of migrants, who were born here, who do not have the accent we have, they still feel the injustice when it comes to employment or social integration. They feel frustrated. They are more vulnerable and this is when they can be exploited by extremist groups."