Minister of State, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD, Joins UNHCR for Official Launch of "Towards a New Beginning: Refugee Integration in Ireland."

 

From Left: Sophie Magennis, Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD, Diana Gouveia, Mustafa Shirzi, Nadia Said  © UNHCR

The tenacity, strong will and determination of refugees living in Ireland was praised at the Mansion House in Dublin on March 3rd, as refugees joined UNHCR for the official launch of “Towards a New Beginning: Refugee Integration in Ireland”.

Speaking to a gathering of 80 people, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD, Minister of State at the Department of Justice said that refugees were to be admired for overcoming great difficulties in their life to reach safety.

“Refugees do not wish to be portrayed as victims ... they are individuals with skills and life-experiences which can be of immense benefit to us all.”

The report, published as part of a wider European Commission funded study on refugee integration in 4 Western European countries (Ireland, Austria, France and Sweden), comes at a key time, with the Government currently formulating a new national strategy on integration. Meanwhile the Working Group on the protection process, which is looking at Direct Provision, supports to asylum-seekers and a range of other subjects including integration, will report to the Government by Easter.

The report’s primary recommendations (discussed in further detail below) focused on the provision of integration supports to refugees at an early stage and a reduction of time spent in direct provision centres awaiting asylum application decisions in order to facilitate early and effective integration in Irish society.

“With the number of people forcibly displaced by war and persecution around the world on the increase, understanding the reasons refugees come to Ireland and the challenges they face on arrival is critical as we look to facilitate their integration in the future,” said UNHCR Ireland Head of Office, Sophie Magennis during her opening remarks.


Other speakers included Report Author, Diana Gouveia and two refugee representatives, Nadia, a Somali refugee living in Ireland for 9 years, and Mustafa, an Afghan refugee who first came to Ireland as an unaccompanied minor. Both spoke of their challenges and achievements integrating in Irish society and thanked the Irish authorities and people for their ongoing support for refugees.

Overall there was a very positive atmosphere among the attendees, which included representatives from various Government Departments and Agencies, NGOs and members of a variety of refugee communities throughout Ireland.

UNHCR would like to thank all those who attended and helped to make the launch a success.

Report Summary:
The Report focused on 5 main issues and offered conclusions and recommendations on each of these.

  • 1: Active Citizenship:  Representation in Media, Volunteering and Political Participation.
  • 2. Housing:  Complexity of Social Protection and Housing System, Limited Access to Housing, Administrative Delays, Long stays in Direct Provision (DP).
  • 3. Employment: Lack of English competency, Discriminatory Attitudes, Inability to access ‘Back to Education’ allowance immediately.
  • 4. Access to Information: Misinformation, cultural barriers, NGO contact.
  • 5: Social Inclusion: Access to Sports, Religious affiliations, Racism, Stigma.

Key Recommendations:

  • Reduce Refugee Status Determination waiting times and long stays in Direct Provision (DP).
  • Enhance access to voluntary organisations, political process and awareness on access to citizenship.
  • Language and vocational training in DP, diversity awareness, access to voluntary work.
  • Improve accessibility of social protection and social housing schemes and transitional supports from DP.
  • Consistent and timely communication between state agencies, NGOs and community groups.
  • Enhance access to sporting, faith based groups and parent’s engagement with schools.
  • Additional measures to tackle racism and discrimination and to inform refugees of these.
  • Enhanced supports for achieving Family Reunification.

Click here for full report