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STATEMENT – Refugee tents can’t become the new norm

Refugee tents will add to distress and can’t become the new norm

Refugee and migrant support organisation Doras is concerned that refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine are sleeping on floors and in tents and that this could signal a disturbing new norm if not immediately addressed.

Doras CEO John Lannon highlights the deteriorating conditions for refugees and says a basic standard of accommodation is essential when fulfilling our obligations to some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

“We’re talking about people who are fleeing for their lives, people who have lived through the horrors of war and are seeking a safe place of rest and sanctuary. While many of those we are working with are grateful for any kind of immediate food and shelter, the reality is that people need and deserve better than sleeping on floors or in tents. This is especially the case for people who are traumatised, or who have specific medical needs, and in all situations the safeguarding of children is paramount. This is the case for Ukrainians as it is for people from Afghanistan and others who need protection.”

“Of course, we have a national accommodation crisis, and have had for years now, but we’re still a wealthy country and we must provide a basic standard of care and accommodation that doesn’t see people sleeping in hugely inadequate conditions. The risk here is that tents become a new norm and we can’t allow that especially as we enter the final weeks of summer and face the prospect of a long and cold winter ahead.”

“We’ve known for many months now, back to when the government signalled that up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees might arrive, that measures would need to be put in place. Everybody concerned is working flat out but it’s simply not good enough to say we didn’t see this coming. The situation is also compounding the distress felt by people in direct provision, which as we know is already a sub-standard system of accommodation. Direct provision was in itself a so-called ‘temporary measure’, established back in 2000 due to a shortage of accommodation. The recent White Paper has acknowledged the failures and the need to end this system but now things look set to get worse rather than better with the current failures adding to the acute pressure felt by people in this terrible system. There are now 4000 people who should be able to leave direct provision but cannot find anywhere to live and that number is growing by the day. All of this points to the need for a new level of urgency when it comes to tackling the national housing emergency.”

“We’re appealing for greater leadership and joined-up thinking, especially when it comes to coordination between national and local level. Alongside our colleagues across the sector we have met the Taoiseach and raised this several times.”

“We need better coordination and resourcing to ensure those of us working with refugees and asylum seekers can better respond to the huge levels of distress and suffering we are witnessing every day. We need an all-out response, as we had with Covid, which should include the appointment of a national refugee response lead. We also need to see a plan from government that articulates an approach to the reception and accommodation of refugees that does not rely on tents or other substandard accommodation. As a key element of the necessary response, as called for by the Ukraine Civil Society Forum, is to mandate the Housing Agency to drive development of medium-term accommodation for refugees.”