Dáil debates

Thursday, 14 July 2022

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Refugee Resettlement Programme

4:45 pm

Photo of Duncan SmithDuncan Smith (Dublin Fingal, Labour) | Oireachtas source

We have an absolute crisis with regard to how we are dealing with refugees in this country. We awoke this morning to news of the situations in Dublin Airport, Citywest and beyond.

However, those of us who have been engaged on the ground not just since the Ukrainian war but before that in terms of the situation for refugees coming to this country through the international protection accommodation services, IPAS, system have known there has been a crisis for a long time. It has never or seldom made front-page news. We now have a situation where the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has found itself totally overwhelmed. From the start we called for a cross-governmental approach and for something as basic as having individuals of expertise and experience to be in reception centres and hotels to deal with refugees, and we have generally been ignored. That is coming home to roost now and the people who are suffering are those who are coming to this country from wars in Ukraine and elsewhere and who are sleeping on the floor in Dublin Airport or in overcrowded conditions in Citywest or in a reception centre managed by a private entity.

With regard to Citywest, at present there are residents there who are beneficiaries of the EU temporary protection directive, TPD, category of refugees, mainly Ukrainian people, and there are also people there under protection in the direct provision system from IPAS. The issue is not the mix or, indeed, the two systems. The issue is that one category, those under the TPD, is being processed in 24 hours on average, while others are being processed in two weeks on average. These are all human beings, and this is absolutely indefensible. It is understandable that a lot of the media coverage is focused on Ukraine, but this has laid bare how inhumane our treatment of refugees has been for many years despite the best intentions of the Irish public and many in politics. I have huge concerns about the conditions in Citywest. The communal areas are being used as temporary shelter for people who have been displaced. Citywest is not meeting minimum standards. This is coming from public health officials who are working there. There are major issues with regard to education. It is the summer holidays now but we are only a few weeks away from schools reopening - we were discussing back-to-school matters last week in the House - and 33% of young people coming to this country under the schemes do not have a school place.

We now have details about what is going to happen in Gormanston Camp. I would like to hear a further update on that with regard to this tented village. However, we are getting a sense that the Government is downplaying this issue. This is not a temporary issue. It has been building for a number of months. The system appears to be totally overwhelmed. The community response being led by the local authorities was never fit for purpose and never met the real needs of refugees in this country.

Will people be at the airport for more than one night? What will happen to arrivals today and over the weekend? What washing and laundry facilities are available at the airport? Have people sufficient access to water and so forth with the heatwave that is coming and the rise in temperatures? What safeguarding measures are in place there? What is going to be done about the two-tier approach that is being applied to all human beings who are coming to this country as refugees?


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