Government approach on refugees from Ukraine risks leaving new arrivals homeless on Dublin’s streets
Ukraine Civil Society Forum calls on Government to shift from short-term management of refugee response - action must be led from Dept of Taoiseach
21 October 2022 - The Ukraine Civil Society Forum (UCSF), representing 68 Irish NGOs active in supporting Ireland’s emergency response to refugees from Ukraine, has expressed grave concern at the Government’s announcement that they cannot guarantee reception accommodation for people arriving from Ukraine. The Forum said this runs the very real risk that new arrivals are in danger of being left homeless on Dublin’s streets.
The Forum said that while it recognised the very challenging circumstances confronting the Government, those working on the frontline, and refugees themselves, but that Ireland is now at a crossroads in terms of how the national response to the arrival of refugees and those seeking international protection is being managed.
The Forum added that the Government now needs to make some urgent big decisions and change its approach from crisis management to medium-long term planning, or else face having to say there is ‘no room at the inn’ for new arrivals in the run-up to Christmas.
The National Co-ordinator and Spokesperson for the UCSF, Emma Lane-Spollen, commented “The Government has finally recognised the severe capacity issues at the Citywest Transit Centre that have led to significant overcrowding and safety issues. Yesterday there were 1,050 people in a facility designed for 300, sleeping on chairs and the floor – this includes pregnant women, young children and the elderly.
“The UCSF is deeply worried that a tragedy, like the death of a baby in an overflow centre in the Netherlands which sparked questions about the conditions in the centre and availability of medical care, could occur here.
“However, the implications of this is that those arriving today may have nowhere to go. The Government informs us that this situation may last 10 days. For now we are told women and children will be accommodated but for how long can they do this with the current approach?
“This crisis is not going to ease up. The war in Ukraine is not abating, winter is coming and 30% of Ukraine is without electricity. The increase in arrivals is not unexpected. What is worrying is that the Department of Children, Equality, Disability and Youth had raised this likely scenario with the Senior Officials Group weeks ago, and yet here we are.
“The DCEDIY have done a phenomenal job, securing emergency shelter for 58,000 refugees in seven months. Yet they are now flagging that we face a likely deficit of 15,000 beds by year end. Already the Department has contracted 25% of available hotel beds. We need a strong pipeline of medium term accommodation to create capacity for new arrivals.
“Clearly the Department has reached the limits of what it can do. For too long one Department has had to carry the burden of securing all accommodation. The Government needs to plan for the medium term, and that planning must be led from the very top in the Department of the Taoiseach.
“The focus to date has been on procurement that delivers volume. But now we need to broaden the approach. The Government must facilitate all those offers of smaller scale accommodation, incentivise more households to rent spare rooms, and incentivise the turning around of vacant and derelict properties.
“The EU has announced that temporary Protection will be extended to March 2024. We need to commence sustainable planning for accommodating people for at least the next 2 years. The UCSF urges the Government to urgently plan for the future, recognising refugees as people, traumatised and needing security. Recognising too, that the Irish people support the national effort. With direction, incentives and empowering of local communities we can as a nation respond even more.”
The UCSF said that alongside the provision of accommodation there needs to be mechanisms and processes to ensure that people are safe, including:
1. Standards of accommodation are reasonable;
2. Accommodation centre staff are trained in trauma, child protection and safefguarding;
3. Accommodation and welfare issues can be addressed effectively;
4. Refugees are given a sense of stability and security by not being moved constantly.
Notes for editors:
Ukraine Civil Society Forum (UCSF) is an initiative convened by civil society acting collectively to support the emergency response and welcome of refugees from Ukraine to Ireland. This provides a space for the national coordination of civil society and community responses, connecting into the State’s emergency response structures and ongoing reception and integration. The UCSF shares information, avoids duplication, identifies trends and patterns, including gaps in service provision, works together to share solutions, and escalates issues where necessary to the Government. Members are +68 organisations working in Ireland.