LIMERICK-based national migrant and refugee support organisation, Doras, is concerned about what it describes as “alarming gaps” in Ireland’s effort to support Ukrainian refugees.
Chief executive John Lannon says that while there is a lot to commend about the response from both government and civil society, there are a growing number of issues that need to be addressed.
“We have large numbers of Ukrainians calling into our information and support centre and contacting us by phone and email. We’re seeing an increasing volume of people who require additional and more specialised support, which is not surprising when you consider the gravity of the situation.
“These are people who have made a long and harrowing journey to flee a brutal war. Many have been separated from husbands, family and friends at home, and some have lost people to the war or are living in fear that they will do so.
“What adults and children have witnessed is hard to comprehend and the level of trauma and distress is often evident. The needs and supports they require are likely to increase over time.”
Mr Lannon said what is now needed is a more coordinated response from the government, with proper resources allocated at the local level.
“This is especially true if we are to welcome 100,000 refugees as forecast by the government. Most Ukrainian refugees are sharing houses in the Eastern European communities, or are in emergency accommodation, or are being hosted by Irish families.
“While people are grateful for a short-term roof over their heads, the support they require goes beyond food and accommodation, and includes mental and physical health supports, translation and language skills, and training and employment supports.
“Host families and communities also need support. Sourcing suitable accommodation is essential, as some of the accommodation being provided at present is very poor.
“The State can’t overly rely on the goodwill of people and not properly resource them. Our workload was already under huge pressure, and this has now increased massively, putting a huge strain on our ability to cope. We simply can’t deliver the services we need without adequate staffing and resources.”
He said there is also a strong feeling that international protection applicants from war zones in Afghanistan and elsewhere are being pushed to the back of the queue.
“There are now people in direct provision for several months without access to basic supports, including children who cannot go to school. We understand the systems are under pressure, but that’s simply not acceptable,” Mr Lannon added.