State response to Ukraine crisis included ‘heavy reliance’ on community sector

The state’s response to the Ukraine crisis has included a “heavy reliance” on the community and voluntary sector to provide support to migrants, according to a new policy brief from Social Justice Ireland.

The document says the sector has amplified safeguard concerns about unaccompanied minors, “leading the government to put in place the relevant protections.”

“Migrations in Our Common Home: Responding with Care – Ireland’s Response to the Ukrainian Crisis” was released on Monday by a new roundtable chaired by Social Justice Ireland and made up of members of civil society, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and of academics.

Briefing paper says Ireland’s response to Ukrainian migrants has ‘been almost exemplary’ and that the ‘human rights first’ approach should be a model for an overhaul of the international protection system of Ireland. However, he adds that the answer is “not without flaws”.

“In the Irish response, there is a strong reliance on the community and voluntary sector to provide support such as accommodation coordination, English language teaching, foster care support, etc.”, he says.

“It was the community and voluntary sector that amplified safeguarding concerns about unaccompanied minors, leading the government to put in place the relevant protections.

“The industry continues to highlight these concerns about privately arranged accommodation placements between a Ukrainian family and an Irish host, in recognition of the power imbalance within this relationship.”

Colette Bennett, economic and social analyst at Social Justice Ireland, said the community and voluntary sector was already “stretched to the limit” and had suffered serious funding cuts following the financial crash of 2008.

“The sector has tried to do the same, if not more, in terms of service delivery, with fewer resources,” she said.

“Covid has seen an incredible response from the sector in terms of community engagement . . . and it’s still the same groups that are being called upon to respond to this.

“While they’re doing it, and doing it voluntarily, there also has to be fatigue in that they just don’t have the resources to keep fighting the fires they’re fighting while they’re not. don’t have the resources to do so, whether in manpower or finances.

The paper recommends that the long-term implications of the war in Ukraine, particularly with regard to adequate housing supply, should be addressed as “an urgent matter as many of these refugees may not be able to return to Ukraine for years”. ”.

It also indicates that the government must invest in infrastructure and services that “benefit all”, and encourage awareness of host communities, including education.

The implications of the gendered nature of this forced migration must also be addressed, according to the document, most of those arriving are women and children.

“This cohort has unique and specific needs which must be taken into account to facilitate their integration into Ireland, including the provision of suitable accommodation which both meets their needs and complies with child protection legislation. and vulnerable adults,” the report said.

The document further recommends that the government borrow to provide the necessary infrastructure and supports, adopting a “wartime” approach to servicing the debt.

“Ireland should engage with the European Commission to ensure they are willing to show more flexibility and suspend fiscal rules and ensure they are willing to support this correct response to the Ukrainian crisis and the resulting forced displacement,” he said.

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