The Government has been urged to appoint a migration czar by an alliance of leading NGOs who say the response to the crisis is “not fast nor flexible enough”.
In a briefing note drawn up last month for incoming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the Ukraine Civil Society Forum (UCSF) criticised the State’s response, saying the refugee crisis needed to be treated “as the emergency it is”.
“Business as usual is not fast enough nor flexible enough,” the advocacy group told Mr Varadkar – also warning him of their concerns about safeguarding and welfare in hundreds of accommodation centres around the country.
It said there were “no systems, monitoring or training” in place for safeguarding and welfare and that it was “ripe for abuse yet easily fixed”.
The UCSF, which is an umbrella group composed of NGOs involved in responding to the refugee crisis, called for a “central delivery unit to co-ordinate policy and action across government”, and recommended it be led by a “named senior official dedicated to leading the response across government”.
It pointed to the example of the Portuguese high commissioner for migration, which has a role in policy and also co-ordinates services.
Coalition leaders will meet senior Ministers involved in the migrant response this evening, amid ongoing concerns over the sustainability of the State’s response. Since last week, those seeking international protection in the State have been unable to rely on accommodation when arriving, while there is deep concern in government about the prospect of growing tensions around the accommodation of refugees.
The Department of Integration said yesterday that while all those who were not offered accommodation last week had been contacted after it sourced a “limited number of additional beds”, a further eight IP applicants were not accommodated over the weekend, bringing the total since last Tuesday to 89.
In its briefing note the UCSF also argued that there was an over-reliance on the hospitality sector, with an “insufficient pipeline” of alternative beds. It argued that there was a need for “at least 28,000 non-hospitality beds” and “probably more” if a clash with tourism requirements was to be avoided. However, it estimated that if 5,000 beds materialised from modular homes, renovations and unoccupied homes “we will be lucky”.
It said the change in leadership at the top of the Government was “an opportunity for a fresh approach” and “to be strategic, pragmatic and ambitious”.
Minister for Tourism and Culture Catherine Martin expressed concern yesterday that hotels currently housing asylum seekers and Ukrainian refugees may decide to return to accommodating tourists for the St Patrick’s Day weekend.