A GROUP of 180 Ukrainian refugees who recently arrived in Limerick spent two weeks sleeping in tents in a recycling centre in Dublin after landing in Ireland.
And they eventually arrived in Limerick with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
This is despite thousands of Irish pledges of accommodation, which have still not even been acknowledged.
With 200 more due to arrive in the city this week, the 180 individuals have no personal toiletries, and some don’t even have wearable shoes.
Limerick volunteers assisting refugees from Ukraine say the system is splintered, and revealed that after waiting for hours at Shannon Airport with one group, a mother who had travelled to stay with her daughter in Limerick was shipped off to Sligo.
“We had to watch them say hello and then say goodbye again,” volunteer Anna Mazeika told the Limerick Post.
Ms Mazeika says the accommodation system is not working, and many Ukrainians who had three-month agreements on a place to live are now being told to leave.
“It’s unbelievable that people would be sent to a recycling centre and for that length of time, to sleep in a tent,” she said. “They’re sent on here and they don’t even have a bar of soap.
“The people who arrive now are coming from the Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine and they can bring almost nothing with them. They just had to run. After all they have been through, they have to face more trauma once they’re here.
“The Red Cross volunteers we’ve spoken to say their hands are tied and accommodation matches have to go through International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS).
“Refugees who have questions are trying to contact them but the only contact they are given is an email and they don’t get a reply.”
Ms Mazeika said she and other volunteers go to Shannon to meet those coming off planes and recently, a young woman who arrived in Limerick from Ukraine some time ago learned that her mother and another relative had escaped and were on a Shannon-bound flight.
“I had checked with hotels in Limerick and had found a number of available rooms for some of those coming in. We took the daughter to the airport with us. After they arrived, IPAS were contacted and told all the details.
“We waited seven hours at Shannon only to be told the whole group was going to Sligo. We saw the mother and daughter say goodbye again. It was heartbreaking.”
Ms Mazeika says that the short-term leases for refugees are now up and many have been told they face the impossible task of finding other accommodation.
“In the start, people were anxious to help but now a lot of people who own accommodation want it back so they can let it out or they don’t want to get involved in everything needed to offer a longer let.”
Ms Mazeika says more needs to be done at government level to sort out procedures on the ground, even if that involves setting up local structures.
“Look at the efficiency when we responded to Covid. Why can’t we have the same effort for this?”
The Limerick Post tried to contact IPAS but in answer to an email (there is no phone number on their site) was told that our query was no 30,827.