Syrian family unable to rent a home in Dublin

Landlords reluctant to house family even though their rent is guaranteed

Marwan and his wife Rodina: “I would love to stay in Dublin. Our daughters are very happy in the school.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Marwan and his wife Rodina: “I would love to stay in Dublin. Our daughters are very happy in the school.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne


A Catholic parish in Dublin, which raised thousands of euro to help a family of Syrian migrants, has been unable to rent a house for them, despite guaranteeing to pay the costs for two years.

The married couple, Marwan and Rodina, arrived in Ireland last April with their daughters, leaving behind the war and destruction in Syria.

Initially, they spent months in a direct provision centre in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo.

Following publication of their story in The Irish Times, a member of the Catholic community in Stillorgan/Kilmacud came forward offering to pay housing and education bills for two years.

Jean Kilcullen, who is hosting the family while they search for a home, has spent two months trying to find a landlord who will rent to them.

“We were very optimistic at the beginning. I was sure we would have them settled by Christmas,” said Ms Kilcullen.

“This is not a question of money, we’re not asking for a reduction in rent, we’re guaranteeing it.”

Acknowledging Dublin’s housing shortage, she said many estate agents and landlords are quick to dismiss an application from a Syrian family. One described the situation as “too complicated”.

“They’re uncomfortable with anything that’s new or different,” said Ms Kilcullen. “We’re so good at giving money to overseas development but when it comes to your own front door, it’s not quite as simple.

“Our parish has been brilliant in setting up the contributing fund. Currently we have €12,500 but we’re going to have a big collection in the church,” she said.

Facing risk

“We want to give them a start. Otherwise what do they do? These are well-educated people, they want to contribute to society and work. They don’t want to be charity cases,” she said.

The Irish Times is not publishing the surname of the family at their request .

Describing Ms Kilcullen and the local parish as “angels” for welcoming them, Marwan and Rodina are, nevertheless, exhausted after living “for nearly 10 months out of suitcases”.

“When you’re staying with another person you can’t be completely yourself,” said Marwan.

“These are very good people but we want to settle, not to have to pack up our belongings.

“I would love to stay in Dublin. Our daughters are very happy in the school and I want to stay here because there are more opportunities to find work,” he said.

Research from the UN in 2014 found that refugees felt discriminated against by landlords, believing that they face “explicit racism” when trying to rent a house.

Suitable accommodation helps people to mix with the local community and helps them “feel part and parcel of their new homes”, said UNHCR official Jody Clarke.

But Stephen Faughnan, chairman of the Irish Property Owners’ Association, says landlords and agents are flooded with calls as soon as a property is advertised for rent.

“They normally only process the first few applications and find someone suitable very quickly,” he said.

Faughnan said that 800 houses are being taken out of the rental market each month by landlords leaving the rental market because of what they see as onerous legislation governing the sector.

“Unless a prospective tenant has all the necessary requirements: references, bank details, deposit etc, they will find it very difficult to source accommodation in the current climate,” he said.