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Ireland: 'Reunited refugees at risk of being homeless'
29 July 2020
A new report by Nasc, a migrant and refugee rights organisation, explains "the many challenges faced by reunified [refugee] families, including significant barriers to accessing housing and a high risk of homelessness, as well as difficulties accessing other essential services. It highlights significant unmet support needs which are likely to hinder integration into Irish society."
See: Invisible People: The Integration Support Needs of Refugee Families Reunified in Ireland (Nasc, link):
"In total, the report makes 36 recommendations, including the amendment of the International Protection Act, 2015 to provide for greater family reunification rights, the provision of Integration Support and Intercultural Workers to support reunified families after arrival in Ireland and the upskilling of mental health service providers to ensure that their work is cognisant of the experience of reunified families."
Press coverage: 'Reunited refugees at risk of being homeless' (Irish Examiner, link):
"Nasc, the migrant and refugee rights centre, says that refugee families who have been reunited here have a high risk of homelessness and have issues accessing healthcare.
In its latest report, Nasc, which is based in Cork, found that access to housing is a problem for such refugee families. It is not possible for refugees to apply for social housing support, such as housing assistance payment, in advance of their family members arriving in Ireland.
This delays their search for housing and increases their risk of homelessness.
Applications for social protection payments cannot be made until after family members have arrived, so there is a delay in receiving financial support. This impacts unaccompanied minors' education, as they feel obliged to work to support their family.
The report also highlights access to healthcare and mental health supports, and the lack of projects to integrate refugees. Some also spoke about racism and exclusion."
The report's recommendations
- Amend the 2015 International Protection Act to address concerns about the narrow definition of the family (S. 56(9)) and the time-limit to apply after recognition of refugee status (S. 56(8)).
- A permanent complementary admissions programme should be put in place by the Department of Justice and Equality. This should be in addition to Ireland's existing commitments under the Irish Refugee and Protection Programme.
- Free Legal Aid should be made available for those applying for family reunification under the International Protection Act, 2015.
- The Department of Justice and Equality should produce a comprehensive and accessible guide to the statutory mechanism for family refugee reunification for applicants.
- The necessity for DNA testing should be anticipated and communicated to applicants for refugee family reunification at as early a stage in the process as possible.
- Appropriate guidelines in relation to requests for DNA testing in applications for family reunification under statutory and complementary mechanisms for beneficiaries of international protection should be developed by the Department of Justice and Equality.
- Decision letters from the Family Reunification Unit to successful applicants for family reunification should be accompanied by information on next steps (beyond visa and immigration requirements) and information on sources of advice and support.
- Fees for visas to enter Ireland should be waived by the Department of Justice and Equality in the case of all persons admitted to Ireland under refugee family reunification.
- The Irish government should commit resources to assisting in organising and funding travel of all those admitted to Ireland under statutory and complementary mechanisms for refugee family reunification.
- In the context of the restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 the Irish government should – as a matter of urgency – examine ways to support the travel to Ireland of family members with permission to come to Ireland for the purposes of reunification with a refugee. A dedicated integration strategy for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection and refugee family reunification should be developed by the Department of Justice and Equality as part of the successor to the current migrant integration strategy.
- Consideration should be given to allocating responsibility for driving, overseeing and coordinating reception and integration policy for all applicants/beneficiaries of international protection, including all beneficiaries of refugee family reunification, to a single administrative unit within the Department of Justice and Equality.
- All applicants/beneficiaries of international protection, including all beneficiaries of refugee family reunification should have equal entitlements and access to reception and integration supports.
- In order to facilitate provision of reception and integration support nationally it is recommended that the existing structures and roles put in place by local authorities to support resettlement programmes at county level are made permanent and adapted accordingly to support asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection, including all beneficiaries of refugee family reunification. In the initial period after arrival support from integration support workers and intercultural workers should be available to beneficiaries of family reunification to support access to services.
- Relevant actions of the Migrant Integration Strategy should be fully implemented by the end of 2020. In particular government departments should immediately prioritise implementation of Actions 15, 16.and 18.
- An obligation should be placed on all government departments and agencies to ensure that recruitment and continuous professional-development of front-line workers takes account of the requisite language skills required to work with linguistically and culturally diverse populations.
- Local authorities should permit registration of housing need in advance of the arrival of family members given permission to come to Ireland under refugee family reunification.
- Increased HAP payments adequate to the needs of the enlarged family unit should be available to refugee sponsors at least one month in advance of the arrival of family members in Ireland.
- Responsibility should be placed on local authorities to ensure that temporary emergency accommodation for persons admitted under refugee family reunification is available on arrival where necessary.
- The Department of Social Protection should be allocated responsibility for fast tracking of applications of reunified family members for PPS numbers.
- All actions under the Migrant Integration Strategy for the Department of Social Protection should be implemented by the end of 2020.
- As a priority beneficiaries of international protection and family reunification should have access to English language provision through Education and Training Boards of a minimum of 15 hours per week.
- Ensure that English language provision is put in place by Education and Training Boards that meets the needs of reunified family members with childcare responsibilities or in employment.
- Reunified family members must be supported in accessing early years services, school places and other forms of educational provision in the same way that support is currently provided to programme refugees.
- The Health Service Executive should be allocated responsibility for ensuring that reunified family members have access to health assessments upon arrival and for provision of support with accessing primary care health services for reunified families.
- The Health Service Executive should be allocated responsibility to fast track access to medical cards for eligible reunified family members.
- The recommendations of the HSE Working Group to Develop a Model for the Implementation of Trained Interpreters in the Irish Healthcare System should be fully implemented.
- Mental health service providers, including counsellors and psychologists should be upskilled to ensure that their work is cognisant of the experiences of reunified families.
- Tusla should provide or fund proactive family support services to reunified refugee families.
- Particular attention should be paid to supporting young refugee sponsors and their families.
- Ensure that existing relationship, counselling and family support services are adequately resourced to meet the needs of reunified families.
- Training on anti-discrimination and anti-racism in addition to intercultural awareness should be mandated for all front-line workers in government departments and agencies.
- Schools and educational services should be obliged to put anti-racism policies and procedures in place.
- Crosscare Refugee Service (2018) have put forward a recommendation for a model of licensing of landlords as part of registration with Private Residential Tenancies Board which incorporated an anti-racism/discrimination charter and we support this recommendation.
- There is a need for longitudinal research to be carried out to track experiences and outcomes over time
- Collection and/or collation of date for the purposes of monitoring integration outcomes must be carried out in way which facilitates assessment of outcomes for beneficiaries of international protection and family reunification
- There is a need for participatory research to be carried out with refugees and reunified families in order to ensure that their concerns are reflected in research and policy.
See: Invisible People: The Integration Support Needs of Refugee Families Reunified in Ireland (Nasc, link)