Saturday 29 July 2017

Comment: Better communication needed to smooth way for Syrians

Ballaghaderreen town Photo: Douglas O’Connor
Ballaghaderreen town Photo: Douglas O’Connor
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

It would seem the Department of Justice has learned from the mistakes of the discredited direct provision system in drawing up plans for the integration of migrants fleeing the Syrian conflict.

Under direct provision, hundreds of asylum seekers have been forced to live for years on end in accommodation centres dotted around the country, unable to work and often with little to do.

But groups of Syrians arriving in Ireland, such as the 80 set to arrive in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, will not have to endure the same shoddy treatment. A key difference is that, unlike other categories of immigrant, they have been screened before arriving.

According to the department, their stay in the town will be short and they will be housed elsewhere in Ireland.

A fast-track assessment and determination of their refugee claims is planned, with the process being used set to take around 12 weeks.

Exactly how long it will take to find them homes remains to be seen, but the department said the numbers coming in from camps in Lebanon and Greece will be housed around the country over the next 18 months.

They will have access to intensive English language training, weekly clinics where they can identify specific needs in terms of health, social welfare and education, and they will participate in an orientation programme which gives them detailed information on Ireland to enable them to adapt to their new society.

The department said efforts would be made to mainstream them into local services without impacting on those services.

All in all, the treatment being meted out through the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, under which Ireland has committed to admitting 4,000 people, should be streets ahead of the direct provision system.

However, what still leaves a lot to be desired is the communications process with communities where large groups will be housed in emergency reception and orientation centres immediately after arriving in Ireland.

When news broke about Ballaghaderreen yesterday, local concerns were mainly fuelled by a lack of information. This could easily have been averted, but speculation was allowed to fill the vacuum.

There is enormous sympathy out there for the displaced Syrians - and it would be a terrible shame if fear and mistrust were allowed to breed due to a lack of local consultation.

Irish Independent

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