Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Olivia Kelleher

Improved communication is needed with communities regarding the housing of refugees amid a growing “uneasiness” about a possible decline in warmth towards those seeking sanctuary, according to the national coordinator of Ukraine Civil Society Response, Emma Lane Spollen.

Ms Lane Spollen said Irish people have shown “enormous goodwill” towards Ukrainians.

However, there is concern that our traditional “Meitheal” could dissipate as time goes on.

“Our response so far has been extraordinary. People have opened their houses, and they have extended huge friendship. Ukrainians have been so surprised about how warm Irish people have been to them and their families. People have felt huge gratitude.

“But there is growing concern. We are hearing it through our family resource network and others.

“Just an uneasiness happening. And a need for much better communication, and a real need for better planning so communities understand what is happening and that the Government has a plan.”

Ms Lane Spollen says that fundamentally communities “don’t like being kept in the dark”.

East Wall

“They don’t like to feel that a thing is being done to them. And they may be hurting for many reasons. Often there are significant structural problems and resource issues that need to be listened to.

“But those crises are not caused by refugees, and they won’t be solved by intimidation like we saw at the East Wall over the weekend.”

Ms Lane Spollen said the deteriorating situation in Ukraine is seeing Vladimir Putin weaponising food, energy and migration amid a goal to weaken and de stabilise European countries across the board.

“We must not play into his hands. The next six months will be really hard. It is particularly hard if you are in the Ukraine. But things are also going to be tough here.

“There is no sugar coating that. We are going to have to work together. But it is about working together.

“Falling back on the national Meitheal that is there in Ireland. That is who we are. We need to channel that to get us through tough times.”

Meanwhile, she says that increasingly we are “scraping the bottom of the barrel” in terms of where we are housing Ukrainians and other refugees.

We don’t want people living in tents.

“They are not appropriate places. But we don’t want people living in tents. It is not just the physical infrastructure.

“But we would be deeply concerned that there are no supports in place.

“Cleaners, security guard and one deputy manager in East Wall (refugee accommodation centre). That is just madness. We can do better.”

She added that a whole of Government response is required.

Ms Lane Spollen believes that ultimately the responsibility for the care of refugees should be reallocated to the Department of the Taoiseach.

“In our view it needs to go directly to the Taoiseach. I think it needs a whole of Government response. And the Taoiseach is the only one who can really demand that.

“And is not just about co ordinating it is about driving. Because the solutions that are being put on the table are not ambitious enough.

“We are not developing enough alternative follow-on accommodation and we are not putting in the welfare system and safeguarding. We are not doing the training of staff in complicated settings. There is so much that needs to be done.”

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