Delays, inconsistencies, and a lack of cohesion are just some of the allegations levelled against the Government for its apparent failure in dealing with Ukrainian refugees, internal documents show.
Correspondence between the Irish Refugee Council (IRC) and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) from the past month reveal almost no communication between relevant agencies, no information on supports that are to be put in place, and concerns around the speed of the response to the urgent situation.
The State is currently accommodating 62,000 Ukrainians. However, it is struggling to source accommodation to house new arrivals.
There are claims that some refugees have been left waiting for somewhere to stay and that agencies have been sending families to accommodation that is full to capacity.
Notes from conversations between the IRC and refugees, obtained by the Sunday Independent, point to the “uncertainty, anxiety and frustration” felt by those fleeing the war in Ukraine.
In one email to DCEDIY, an IRC representative refers to having received “several concerning reports” regarding families residing at a property at an undisclosed location in the country.
“We understand that many of the 50 families residing there continue to await the allocation of PPS numbers. As a result, they have been unable to apply for the daily expenses allowance and have no income. We have been informed that there is no food served on site.
“The families are given supermarket vouchers, however they have nowhere to cook due to a lack of cooking facilities. This is particularly concerning for the children who reside there, and their health and overall development.”
It is also claimed that some Ukrainians who require medical attention do not know where to seek medical support, and many children have not been able to find a school placement.
And of those who have found a place, many have to walk long distances to get to school, due to a lack of dedicated bus or money to pay for public transport.
“Residents say there has been no visit from government representatives,” said the email.
In another email, the IRC representative tells DCEDIY about a family it claimed had been “sleeping on chairs for a period in excess of four weeks” with conditions described as “unsuitable” for young children.
“The family is now street homeless, and has been sleeping at Dublin Airport’s Terminal 1 for the past two nights. Security at the airport has unfortunately requested that the family leave the premises — and they consequently have nowhere to sleep tonight.
“The children in particular are extremely vulnerable, and the family have very limited English. We have requested a homeless assessment for the family through South Dublin County Council. However, this has been refused on the basis that beneficiaries of temporary protection are not entitled to access homeless services,” they added.
In another email, the Council writes on behalf of an individual who presented to its office to raise concerns regarding his accommodation.
“He was previously accommodated in student accommodation in Santry, Dublin 9, until August 28. He was then moved to temporary accommodation for approximately two weeks.
“He anticipated a move to another temporary accommodation in the coming days. He has requested that I highlight this, as it is impacting on his ability to engage with sustainable employment.”
While noting the pressures the international protection accommodation services are under, the IRC said it felt it was “our duty to remind your office of the legally binding EU Reception Conditions Directive of 2013, specifically: Article 17 (2) 2.”
“Member States shall ensure that material reception conditions provide an adequate standard of living for applicants, which guarantees their subsistence and protects their physical and mental health.
“It is our view that the concerns here raised are a breach of the above regulations,” said the IRC.
Responding to the email last month, a DCEDIY official said it noted the contention that its Department has breached protocols but “respectfully refutes this contention”.
“Our department is providing suitable short-term, temporary emergency accommodation to beneficiaries of this directive.
“Overall, given the scale of this unprecedented crisis response, providing access to suitable accommodation for persons fleeing the conflict in Ukraine remains a significant challenge. It is often necessary to move people a number of times, as contracts with providers come to an end.”
Other complaints include claims that Ukrainian families have nowhere to cook, or no fridge in their rooms, and some are being encouraged to move out from their host homes in Dublin.
In an email, a government official reports that Limerick County Council, which pledged approximately 1,000 bed spaces of accommodation, has still not been used, due to the need for capital works to be carried out — despite being secured earlier this year.