Belfast Telegraph

Ireland has taken in 2,500 refugees in four years, report finds

Almost half of the refugees admitted were under 18 on arrival.

(Ian West/PA)
(Ian West/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

Ireland has accepted just over half of its target number of refugees in four years, according to research.

The Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) was established in September 2015 by the then minister for justice and equality, Frances Fitzgerald, in response to the European refugee crisis.

Ireland pledged to accept 4,000 refugees through EU resettlement and relocation programmes, prioritising families, children and unaccompanied minors.

By June this year, 2,519 people had been relocated or resettled.

Almost half of the refugees admitted were under 18 on arrival, and the majority of these – 85% – were under 12.

The report was commissioned in November 2017 by the Children’s Rights Alliance, and Muireann Ni Raghallaigh, Karen Smith and Jennifer Scholtz of University College Dublin researched the needs of refugee children who had recently arrived in Ireland through the IRPP.

The research, conducted through interviews with parents, children and other relevant stakeholders, resulted in a number of recommendations on how the state should be proactively working to improve the lives of refugee children.

Language barriers in education and recreational activities as well as mental health issues and instability in accommodation have all been flagged as concerns for asylum seeker children.

“It is clear from the research that schools and educational services need more support in assessing the academic abilities and needs of young refugees independent from language,” the report said.

“The study reveals that schools are trying their best despite not always having the resources they need.

“Extra supports to learn and integrate are being provided and work well in some places but are not always available in others.

“One teacher reported sourcing materials for refugee children herself because school funds were simply not enough.”

The report also flagged “gaps in appropriate mental health services” and “a lack of qualified and experienced interpreters” that presented significant barriers to quality of life.

“Many refugee parents are also experiencing debilitating mental health problems but are not always getting the help they need,” the report added.

“Child refugees may find it difficult to build a relationship of trust with mental health professionals or to seek help where they will have to relive the trauma of what they faced in their home country or what they experienced on their journey to safety. ”

Recommendations in the report include funding for schools to access interpreting support, consultations with refugee children and adults following resettlement on how resources can be utilised to meet their needs, and additional dedicated resources to child and youth organisations to help young people develop and build friendships in local communities.

Tanya Ward, chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, concluded in the report that more must be done.

“The state has begun to respond to the wider refugee crisis and important steps have been taken to support these families but there is much more we can do,” she said.

“We need to act now to close these gaps if we want to do our best to welcome, support and empower these children to live happy, healthy lives.”

PA

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