Ukrainian families living in a hotel in Clondalkin in Dublin have expressed shock after they received letters from the Ukraine Crisis Temporary Accommodation team informing them that they are set to be relocated to undisclosed alternative accommodation from next Monday.
About two hundred refugees have lived in a local hotel for several months. Scoil Mhuire National School and St Joseph's Boys' National School are amongst the schools who have been hosting pupils from the war-torn country during that period.
In an interview on Today with Claire Byrne on RTE Radio 1, principals said that the local community and families have worked very hard to establish the children in this new environment only to see them unsettled by the upcoming move.
Siobhan McKieran, principal of Scoil Mhuire, said that they took in 19 Ukrainian children overnight.
'They are shocked, we are shocked'
"They were timid, they were scared, which is understandable. I would be telling a lie if I said it was all great. But they are really, really settled. We really feel we have made a breakthough with a lot of them.
"They are shocked, we are shocked.
"We have no idea where they are going. We have absolutely no idea what sort of life they are going to.
"What we do know is that wherever they go they have to start all over again which is very difficult. It is appalling — they have no voice in this, they are defenceless as to where they go."
Brian Coulston, principal of St Joseph’s Boys’ National School said that parents, children and teachers are very upset at the news.
"They are delighted with how they have settled in Clondalkin. They have come in here and been part of the school community.
"We would love to have them here, they want a bit of certainty in Ireland.
"The staff have gone above and beyond to make them part of the school," Me Coulston said. "You see them playing Gaelic football and soccer. Anything that has gone on in the school they are part of it, so staff would be very disappointed to see them go.
"You also see the groups of friendships in the yard. It is never easy to say goodbye to anybody and the other children [will also be disappointed]."
'We were overwhelmed'
One Ukrainian mother, who was not named, said that their greatest desire is to remain in Clondalkin.
“We are shocked because we received this letter on November 15th and it told us we would have to move from the hotel on November 28th. Nobody knows where. No locations or orientations.
"We were overwhelmed, confused and depressed. Children will be destroyed. They have built new connections and new communications with Irish children, with teachers of schools, with different sports clubs. We didn’t want to make new trauma for them. They [the children] are very worried. They started to cry.
The other thing that distressed us is that half of our Ukrainians have already found jobs in the area. We are working and we are going to lose these jobs. Mostly it is mothers who are taking care of children."
It is understood that the families have received advice from the Irish Red Cross, the Peter McVerry Trust and Helping Irish Hosts in connection with the move. The Irish Red Cross is trying to match the families with pledged offers of accommodation. However, if this fails the families are reliant on the Government for accommodation.
The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth confirmed to RTÉ that due to unprecedented demand for accommodation it is necessary for them to organise transfers where necessary.