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7/11/2015 FMA Ireland: The Refugee Crisis what can we do
FMA Ireland: The  Refugee Crisis what can we do
FMA Ireland: The Refugee Crisis what can we do

A cluster of parishes in our local area both Catholic and non-Catholic arranged a meeting in one of the local hotels to facilitate a dialogue on the above topic on the 23rd September 2015. Some of the members of our community attended.

There were about 200 present and the meeting was chaired by the local parish administrator. During the first part of the meeting a member of ‘Concern’ (An Irish Organization internationally renowned for caring for the displaced and suffering peoples) gave a presentation. In this ppt. presentation we received a very good understanding of the history and development of the problem. The presenter stressed that there needed to be a two pronged approach.

Firstly to try to alleviate the suffering and hardship of those who have remained in Syria and those in the crowded camps in Lebanon and Hungary.  She explained to us that the Syrian refugees were people of middle class, professional backgrounds. They had their own homes, employment and a good standard of life. They have found from experience that the best way to help them is to fund projects, i.e.water supply etc. to enable them to improve their living standards so they can remain in their own country. She also explained to us that sending second hand clothes etc. was not the best assistance. If money is sent they can be given vouchers which enable them to choose to buy what they need. This empowers them and also helps local industry.

Secondly how best to help those who will come into our country as refugees. Initially they will need housing, support, welcome and then to learn the language.

Following group discussion this approach was accepted. Each parish would adopt a project to which families will contribute in accordance with their means. And then again that each parish would rent an apartment to house at least one family of refugees. It was also suggested that we could also rent an apartment for a homeless Dublin family.
* A task group was formed to gather the suggestions and to draw up an action plan.
* Finally it was stressed that in this way there will be a number of families in close proximity to each other for support.
* When they arrive there will be opportunities for people to volunteer to help in a variety of different ways. Helping with language, inviting them to Sunday lunch etc.

As a community we agreed that we will participate in this parish initiative and when the plan is finalized we will see how and what we can contribute.


Our Lady Queen of Ireland Province

Extract from the Provincial Newsletter – FMA Irish Connections - October 2015

Crosscare Refugee Service
I am currently working as an Information and Advocacy worker with the Crosscare Refugee Service.  Crosscare is the Social Support Agency of the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin and provides a range of social care, community and youth work services across the Dublin Archdiocese. Currently we employ over 400 staff with over 1,000  volunteers in locations throughout the greater Dublin area and Wicklow. Crosscare’s ethos is based on the principle that every person is created in the image and likeness of God. This places responsibility on us all to work to the highest possible standards while treating every person who uses our services and who works for and with us, with the utmost respect, courtesy and love.

Refugee Crisis
Regarding the current refugee crisis and Crosscare’s response, there were a lot of meetings in recent weeks that Crosscare attended. There was a network meeting of Statutory and Non Statutory organisations/NGO's to look at an overall response to the refugee crisis.  There was another meeting with CORI, IMU and other religious organisations to look at the response of religious congregation to the crisis. Red Cross is also managing the offers of accommodation.  We feel there is a lot of duplication with these groups. As Crosscare works within the Dublin Diocese we may not be doing a lot more than what we are currently doing.  A lot of the refugees will be dispersed to other parts of the country. Crosscare are having a meeting next Thursday 22 at 7.30 pm in Clonliffe for parishes and individuals who have made offers and pledges to Crosscare’s appeal for help with refugees to see how best to respond to the crisis.

I am working everyday with refugees who have got their status and are now   applying for Family Reunification for family members to come and join them. Many of these are from Syria, Iraq and Somalia as well as other countries.    This work involves writing an initial letter to the Family Reunification Section of the Department of Justice to apply for their family member to come to Ireland, the Dept. then sends the refugee a very detailed questionnaire about the family member/s and their circumstances and why the family member is dependent on the refugee. As most of the clients have very little or poor English I assist them in filling in the questionnaire and getting supporting documents to send back to the Department of Justice.   If they are successful in being granted family reunification, I assist the refugee to apply for a visa/s for family to come to Ireland.  When the family arrive, we begin the process of settlement and integration work.

Settlement and integration involves helping the family to find accommodation and that is very difficult these times due to the homeless crisis as there is no-where for them to live or very few places if any landlord or very few will take rent allowance.  I then have to try and get them registered on the homeless list and registered on PASS - Pathway Accommodation and Support System  in order to access homeless accommodation and get a social welfare payment.  This works better for families but it is very difficult for single people to get into homeless accommodation.  (I will say a more about that later) If the family do manage to find accommodation, they need to register with the local authority, apply for a social welfare payment, rent allowance, medical card, travel document, find schools for children, GP and information on places of worship (Mosque or Church). I continue to organise a women's group every Monday morning in Crosscare Community College so we encourage the women to come to that for support. This has been greatly supported by the Salesian Sisters Ministry Fund.   

Homeless Crisis
I have been working with refugees for over 10 years now and during that time I have never known the housing or homeless crisis to be so bad.  A lot of landlords bought property during the boom and now they cannot afford to pay the mortgage or know they will get more money from professionals who can afford to pay higher rent. Some landlord’s have to sell the house or increase the rent and this has had an effect on many of our clients who are in receipt of rent allowance.  Many are getting invalid notice’s to quit so I have to inform them of their rights and the legal notice to quit which should be in writing with the required days they have to move.  If they are unable to source their own private rented accommodation which most cannot do as the Department of Social Protection has not increased the rent allowance, on the day they become homeless they have to present to their local authority for homeless accommodation which is usually a B & B, Hotel or a hostel.  Families with young children are often accommodated but this can be for a few nights at a time and very often they have to move at a weekend as there is a demand on the hotel rooms for other use.  B & B’s and hotel accommodation while it is a bed for the night is very unsuitable for families as there is no facilities to cook. Parents have to bring their children out every day and buy them food.  This is expensive and often the parents are buying fast food which is not healthy.  If children are in school they may have to travel long distances to their school as they may not be in accommodation near their school, again this is more expense on parents.  Some of the families I am working with have been living in these conditions for over a year with no end in sight. We give them information on food centres and shower/laundry facilities which are free. Crosscare also have community café’s in Dublin so we give them food vouchers to buy a meal for their children. This is a problem for refugees, migrants and Irish families.

For those who are single and also some families who are homeless, they have to phone a free phone number every day from 2pm, I have often phoned for clients and I might get an answer machine that tells me I am number 40, 60 or higher in the queue. You could be in the queue for an hour or more and this is difficult for homeless people who may not be able to charge their phone.  If they are lucky they will get a bed for 1 night and have to phone the next day again, we have some clients who are using the free phone now for over 1 year. It is very stressful and exhausting for anyone to have to make a phone call every day to try and get a bed and often they don’t get it.  If you don’t get a bed, you get a sleeping bag and you are on the street for the night.  The Freephone line closes at 10 pm as people will turn up for a bed between 10pm and 10.30 pm and then the line opens again so it is a long day and a long night if you are trying to get a bed. Most single people do not get a bed. 

I hope this gives an insight into the work I am doing and the current refugees and homeless crisis.  It was disappointing that the recent budget did nothing to address the rent issue and as a result many people will remain in homeless accommodation or the streets for a long time to come.

Compiled by Sr. Ursula Mullan FMA

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