SONAS (Support Organisation for the Needs of Asylum Seekers)
From the mid 1990s Ireland has seen unprecedented growth in the number of persons seeking asylum in the state. These numbers, since they peaked at 11,634 in 2002, have begun to decline. At the height of this period the Support Organisation for the Needs of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (SONAS) was established under the European Union funded EQUAL Community Initiative. The promoters of SONAS believed that asylum seekers were ill-equipped to deal with the process in which they found themselves when they arrived in the country. It was to this need that SONAS wished to respond. SONAS was established as a Development Partnership (DP) which consisted of the following organisations, Cork City Partnership, FAS, Partas Dublin, Paul Partnership Limerick, SPIRASI Dublin, Vincentian Refugee Centre Dublin and the Wexford Area Partnership. Outreach Workers (ORWs) operated from the DP organisations in Dublin North and South, Limerick, Cork and Wexford. The project ran from 20012 – 2005.
SONAS identified its aim as:
To improve the quality of life for particular and identifiable groups of asylum seekers at identifiable phases of the asylum determination process and in so doing to contribute to the development of best humanitarian practice
This aim was broken down into five objectives:
- To provide information and support for asylum seekers regarding the asylum determination process and in particular to focus on:
· the process immediately after arrival / reception,
· provision of information regarding rights and entitlements,
· provision of information regarding existing support networks
· understanding the country and location of immigration.
- To enable asylum seekers interface effectively with:
· the local community
· process advisors
· government representatives
- To address identified psychosocial and cultural needs of the most vulnerable groups of asylum seekers with a view to improving their readiness and adaptability for the outcome of the asylum determination process.
- To establish transnational exchanges of relevance to all actions.
- To inform policy on models of good practice at national and European level.
To achieve the aim and objectives SONAS undertook actions in three main areas:
Ø Develop a training programme for providers of services to asylum seekers
Ø Provide an outreach service for asylum seekers
Ø Influence Government policy on asylum seekers