Rotten food and concern for children’s safety reported in State-provided accommodation for Ukrainians

Survey of almost 1,000 Ukrainians leads to call to implement three actions urgently

A survey by human rights organisation Doras suggests the quality of services provided for Ukrainian refugees varies greatly among accommodation centres across the State Photograph:

More than a third of Ukrainian refugees living in State-provided accommodation centres across Ireland rated the quality of their housing as poor or very poor in a recent online survey.

The four-month long countrywide survey by Limerick-based human rights organisation Doras recorded experiences of almost 1,000 Ukrainians who are beneficiaries of temporary protection.

A report, titled Room to Improve: A Look at the Experiences of Beneficiaries of Temporary Protection in State Accommodation, was compiled from the survey, which was conducted between January 29th and April 1st, 2024.

More than 33 per cent of respondents rated the overall quality of their accommodation as poor or very poor. Undercooked or inedible food being served to children was also reported in two centres, while cases of food poisoning were reported in three centres, with residents of one centre reporting worms and maggots in the food. Residents in six centres reported rats and mice.

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The research also found that one in six respondents had concerns regarding the safety of children in their accommodation centre, while one in four reported not having appropriate accommodation and/or inadequate supports for people with additional needs.

One in 10 had concerns regarding gender-based violence in their accommodation centre.

John Lannon, chief executive of Doras, said: “Our new research on the experiences of Ukrainians living in State-provided accommodation paints a worrying, but not surprising, picture. While a significant portion of those surveyed were very happy with their living conditions, we can see from the findings that the quality-of-service provision varies greatly from centre to centre.”

Issues have also been raised regarding damp beds and mould, with many complaining of going without hot water for months. Meanwhile, one in three Ukrainians also showed concerns about the lack of complaint mechanisms inside centres.

“Complete unsanitary conditions, the stench of urine in the rooms on the ground floor, mould, and wet beds on the ground floor,” one refugee mentioned during the survey.

Ireland has granted temporary protection to more than 106,000 people from Ukraine. Of that, more than 47,000 were hosted in State-provided accommodation until May this year.

Accommodation centres varied across the country and included hotels, guest houses, hostels, apartments, long-term student accommodation, former convents/schools, other dormitory style accommodation, and rapid-build housing. Respondents were spread nationwide, with most people who answered the survey accommodated across counties Clare, Cork, Dublin, Limerick and Kerry.

Parents worried about deteriorating health conditions of kids living inside these centres. “Children are constantly sick; I am not sure about the sanitary condition of the hotel and the food provided,” one refugee said during the survey.

“We are calling on the Department for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to urgently implement three main actions: mandatory compliance with the Children First Act 2015 to safeguard children; mandatory Garda vetting for all staff working in accommodation centres; and compulsory training to all staff in those centres on trauma-informed practice and intercultural awareness,” Mr Lannon said.

In a statement, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth said it “has in place a proactive and reactive inspections service who inspect providers nationwide and a dedicated compliance team who investigate all issues brought to its attention with a view to regularising or terminating contracts.

“The department also continues to end contracts where providers do not meet standards,” it added.