A refugee rights watchdog has warned against any “blanket” application of a new protocol under which Ukrainian refugees will get a maximum of two offers from the State of accommodation.
Nasc, a Cork-based agency advocating for migrant and refugee rights, said the new protocol permitting Ukrainian refugees a maximum of two refusals of accommodation offers must be communicated clearly and applied in such a way that it does not result in vulnerable refugees falling through the cracks.
Fiona Hurley, interim chief executive of Nasc, said it accepts the Government is battling with an emergency situation and a housing crisis and that there has to be “some limit” on offers of accommodation.
“Our issue with it is that it has not been communicated very well to individuals,” she said.
The protocol under which Ukrainian refugees will be permitted refuse a maximum two accommodation offers allows for exceptions on the basis of medical need, where an individual may require, for example, to be close to a medical facility, she outlined.
Nasc is concerned that accommodation offers are sometimes made before an individual’s medical needs are assessed and that, in some cases, there is very little opportunity for a medical assessment before the first offer is made. Where assessments have been carried out, the needs of an individual are not always made available from central government to local government, Ms Hurley noted.
“Our concern is that if the protocol is applied on a blanket basis, people can fall through the cracks. There needs to be protections in place for vulnerable people.”
The protocol comes as the State battles with the challenge of accommodating 26,000 of the 36,000 refugees who have come to Ireland as a result of the war in Ukraine, with up to 1,000 more refugees arriving weekly. The Ukrainian embassy is to assist the Department of Children in communicating the details of the new protocol and accommodation scheme to refugees.
For employment or other reasons, including a desire to live near relatives, some refugees have turned down several offers of accommodation. The new protocol means that when the first accommodation offer is refused, the applicant will go to the back of the accommodation list. After a second offer is made, the applicant will be notified that the State has met the requirements of the EU’s temporary protection directive and no further offers will be made if the second offer is not taken up within seven days.
Refugees, provided they are not working, are entitled to rent supplement to help them seek private accommodation. The Housing Assistance Payment, available to workers on a low income, is not, as of now, available to Ukrainians.