Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
A report has warned of the “grievous” risk to women and children seeking refuge and of “deteriorating” accommodation standards in the past six months.
The Irish Refugee Council (IRC) has made recommendations to tackle reported risks to women, minors and children and to address increasingly poor standards of accommodation.
In recent months and weeks, the IRC said that it “has been alerted to grievous risks” and is “extremely concerned” about the welfare of vulnerable groups who are accommodated in areas unfit for purpose.
These “highly alarming” reports include child protection issues and serious allegations targeting vulnerable residents, it said.
The report warned that in the past six months there has been “a steady, downward trajectory” in the quality of accommodation from Direct Provision, to emergency accommodation, to transit centres including people sleeping on floors and chairs, to tents, to no accommodation.
“If ‘temporary, emergency’ type of accommodation is going to be used, we insist that it is for the shortest time possible and that health and safety standards are maintained and prioritised and that, as our law requires, ‘basic needs’ are met,” it said.
The IRC said it does not believe tents or sleeping on floors meet a protection applicant’s basic needs.
Successive governments’ failure to prioritise and adequately resource the international protection system has contributed to the enormous strain we are currently experiencing
While acknowledging that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put pressure on the State's capacity to house asylum seekers and refugees, the report said the “international protection system in Ireland has never functioned well for applicants”.
It said that “successive governments’ failure to prioritise and adequately resource the international protection system has contributed to the enormous strain we are currently experiencing”.
“Current expenditure on emergency and hotel accommodation is very high with no long-term return or investment.”
Figures released on Monday by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show there are over 54,000 Ukrainian refugees in Ireland.
Chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council Nick Henderson said that there was concern about “plummeting standards in accommodation”.
He said: “Recent months have seen a steady deterioration from Direct Provision, to emergency accommodation, to transit centres with people sleeping on floors and chairs, then the use of tents and ultimately no accommodation provided at all in September. We are receiving increasing numbers of grievous reports of risks to minors and the most vulnerable.
“We believe that the recommendations made in this report will enable this situation to be managed more effectively. We urge the Government to take a proactive and cooperative approach by upgrading and fully resourcing relevant public services, governmental departments and supporting agencies to ensure that we can meet the increased need.
“We cannot focus all attention and resources on the immediate and most pressing crisis of new arrivals, without recognising that there is a dual, parallel need to plan for the medium-long term.
“By implementing the actions recommended here, Government can begin to move forward on their commitment to end Direct Provision, while increasing the States’ capacity to address emergency responses as they arise.
“Crucially, these recommendations also address the need for a plan to manage objectives and facilitate positive engagement, greater public awareness and understanding, and more effective support from civil society organisations working in this area.”