Students working in Berkeley, California on a J1 visa say they have encountered difficulties in securing accommodation because they are Irish.
One young woman told The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk that she was advised to “stay off balconies”, almost a year since six students died in a balcony collapse in the city.
Another student — Páraic from Limerick — told reporter Richard Chambers that his group were refused an apartment in the same complex where last June’s tragedy took place.
“We got three places sorted. The three places fell through. The main reason for that is because we’re Irish,” he said.
“We had an apartment secured in one of the Library Gardens apartments, where the students were staying last year. Had everything sorted. Deposit ready to go. And then he said ‘oh, sorry, are you actually Irish?’.
“And we said: ‘Yes, we’re Irish. We’re just over for three months, we’re working hard’. Straight away there was an excuse popping up in front of us saying, ‘there isn’t a hope you’re staying here’,” he said.
Another student, Emma Kelly, told of the warning she received when moving into her apartment.
“The lady that was giving us the lease, she said ‘I’m sorry now, but this is very sensitive, I basically have to tell you, you have to stay off balconies’. I said there was no problem,” Ms Kelly said.
Ms Kelly has recently found an apartment having lived in hostels in recent weeks. She described the search for accommodation as “an absolute struggle”.
“I went up to one lady and asked her would she sub-let her house for seven students and she asked me was I Irish. She said no way would she hire her house out to the Irish again over what happened last year. Basically they wrecked their house,” Ms Kelly said.
“We had two lads, they were on the street, they put up a status on Facebook saying ‘has anyone housing for two people in the Berkeley area?’.
“So, we just got on to them and we said ‘yeah’ and they came to our Travelodge, handed over €1,100 and they’re living with us now. They didn’t care if they trusted us or not, they were just like ‘yeah, we just need to be housed. Please’,” she said.
The students said locals told them the city was “in mourning” after last year’s accident.
“We didn’t know them, but when you’re Irish out here, everyone knows everyone,” one student said.
“You get shivers. Even talking about it now. Six people, they came out here like we did for a good time, it could happen to anyone.
“When the anniversary comes around here, it will be a day of mourning, without a shadow of a doubt,” he said.
“It’s surreal. Even though we didn’t know them, they’re one of us. They were doing exactly what we are doing, last year. And they didn’t come home.”
Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Ashley Donohue, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster, and Eimear Walsh died when the balcony on which they were standing at a 21st birthday party collapsed on June 16 last year.
Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Sean Fahey, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray, and Hannah Waters survived the collapse but suffered a variety of injuries.
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