1676845991 In Ireland you cant throw a war refugee out on

In Ireland ‘you can’t throw a war refugee out on the street’ | War in Ukraine

Lisdoonvarna, a community of 800 people a few kilometers from the west coast of the island, is unrelated to the big city in central Ukraine where she lived before fleeing the war.

We meet Natalya at the small town community center where community members and refugees drink coffee every week. Not far from us, Ukrainian women are salvaging wool that has just been given to them.

Ukrainian women receive wool.

Ukrainian women receive wool at the community center in Lisdoonvarna, where activities between refugees and villagers are regularly organized.

Photo: Radio Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

For most, the journey to this event was short: hundreds of refugees have been living in hotels in the area for months, one of them right next to the community center.

The presence of these hundreds of newcomers is clearly visible in the city. When the school bell rings in the afternoon, the streets of the small center fill with children, many of whom are Ukrainians.

The secondary school, which took in around 260 students last year, had to adapt quickly to accommodate around 60 additional students.

A class of Ukrainian students at a school in Ireland.

Lisdoonvarna Secondary School has set up a class to support Ukrainian students who do not yet have a sufficient level of English.

Photo: Radio Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

It was a bit cramped, admits Shane, who teaches a class of refugees who don’t yet speak English well enough. Despite the challenges, he says the transformation Lisdoonvarna has seen over the past year has been mind-opening.

This receptiveness of the residents of Lisdoonvarna encountered infrastructural difficulties in some regions of Ireland.

There are always many people who remain open, who want to help. But many of them are starting to tire, says Jenny, a County Clare volunteer. And according to them, this fatigue is mainly explained by the way the government is handling the situation.

If we have access to good food and good rooms, this is not the case for all Ukrainians, says refugee Natalia. In recent months, Irish media have reported that Ukrainians, but also asylum seekers from other parts of the world, have been accommodated in military tents due to a lack of accommodation space.

The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher attract many visitors to the west of Ireland.

Photo: Radio Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

A dilemma against the background of the real estate crisis

Faced with this limited space, the Dublin government has therefore turned to hoteliers to accommodate thousands of refugees. In the western part of the country, a region known for its famous Cliffs of Moher, this decision poses a major dilemma as the tourist season approaches.

We understand them, says Clare County Councilor Cillian Murphy, recalling that for years it was the Irish who fled their country to seek refuge elsewhere. Still, this former tourism industry worker wonders how the unavailability of hotel rooms will affect the industry.

“We are heavily dependent on tourism. So when around 80% of our rooms are no longer available, it poses a real challenge for the cafes, restaurants and bars that rely on these visitors. »

– A quote from Clare County Councilor Cillian Murphy

Clare County Alderman Cillian Murphy.

Clare County Councilman Cillian Murphy believes the arrival of the tourist season poses major challenges to his area’s accommodation capacity.

Photo: Radio Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

The consultant therefore proposes that the Irish government better distribute the reception centers for refugees across the country. But the challenge is daunting in this country that has faced a housing shortage for years.

Just over 1,000 rental units were available across Ireland, which has a population of 5 million, in early February, according to specialist website Daft.ie. The situation is even more critical in the capital Dublin, an urban region with 1.3 million inhabitants, where only 500 units were vacant at the same time.

When the Irish take matters into their own hands

To solve this problem, several thousand Irish families, including those of the current Prime Minister, have decided to open their doors to refugees.

One of them is Nathalie-Anne Leonard, who lives in Dublin and has been volunteering with the Helping Irish Host association for a year. Founded by his neighbor Angie Gough, this group brings together 500 families across the country.

“We sat down with my husband and decided together that we absolutely had to take on a family. We couldn’t make people homeless. We had the space, we wanted to do it. »

— A quote from Dublin resident Nathalie Anne Leonard

Nicolas, Micha and Pacha are playing table tennis.

Nicolas, Micha and Pacha regularly have fun in this house in Dublin, where they have been living together for a few months.

Photo: Radio Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

For several months, Lena and her sons Pasha and Misha have been sharing everyday life with the Leonard family.

I have a great time, I really like a friend, starts Nicolas, Nathalie-Anne’s son, and speaks of Pascha. The two boys go to the same class and play together regularly.

These bonds with their hosts help Pasha, her brother and mother through a long and difficult time. I’m glad I met her, but I’m worried about the people who stayed in Ukraine, Misha says of this separation, the duration of which is difficult to predict.

Nathalie Anne Leonard has been involved with the volunteer organization Helping Irish Hosts for about a year.

Nathalie Anne Leonard has been involved with the volunteer organization Helping Irish Hosts for about a year.

Photo: Radio Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

Precisely with the possibility that the war in Ukraine might drag on, Nathalie-Anne Leonard urges the Dublin government and the Irish people not to be swept away by a wave of weariness towards the thousands of refugees who have decided to leave settle in Ukraine island.

There we are entering a second phase so it is very important to continue to encourage people to welcome people into their homes because for now that is all there is. Otherwise they end up on the street. And we cannot throw a war refugee out on the street, concludes Nathalie-Anne Leonard.

The War in Ukraine