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Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
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# Killarney
'It's amazing': Ukrainians thank public for support after U-turn on hotel transfer
There was outcry at the short notice of the plans yesterday.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 12th 2022, 2:20 PM

PLANS TO MOVE Ukrainian refugees from Killarney to accommodation in Mayo have been reversed following outcry.

The Department for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has said it “worked intensively overnight” to source alternative accommodation for the 135 women and children who have been staying at a hotel in the Co Kerry town.

They had been informed yesterday they were to be moved today to Westport.

Members of the Ukrainian community in the town have thanked the public following the U-turn for their support, while there have been calls for the Children’s Minister to detail how the initial decision was taken to transfer the families. 

A meeting took place locally this week where community leaders reportedly spoke out against the sudden transfer of Ukrainians.

Olha Lukavska who has staying at the hotel in Killarney, said they had not “expected so much support” to help them stay in Kerry.  

“Every person who came here today, it’s so amazing,” she said in a video posted online by RTÉ Southern Editor Paschal Sheehy, “We are very thankful to everybody – thank you so much.”

Community leaders appealed for the Ukrainians to remain, noting that they include up to 40 school-going children and how several of the adults have jobs in the town.

But the department has confirmed the move will now not go ahead and group will instead continue to reside in the town.

“The Department has worked intensively overnight to source alternative accommodation for the Ukrainians affected, in Killarney,” it said in a statement.

“In light of these efforts, the move to Westport will not proceed, with those affected remaining in Killarney in new accommodation. IPAS officials will be in touch with the families to let them know about accommodation arrangements.

“The Department is mindful of the impact that all such moves have on those affected, and will continue to deliver a humanitarian response to the needs of Ukrainian displaced persons and those seeking International Protection.”

It added that the wider situation around accommodation remains extremely challenging. 

“The transit centre at Citywest is nearing capacity and the possibility of a pause on entry to new arrivals to Citywest due to a nationwide shortage of accommodation cannot be discounted,” it said. 

Ireland is now accommodating 55,000 people between those fleeing Ukraine and International Protection applicants, compared to 7,500 last year, according to the department. 

Welcome

The U-turn has been welcomed by the coalition of civil society groups including the Irish Refugee Council and the Immigrant Council of Ireland, called the Ukraine Civil Society Forum, but slammed the initial plan for not factoring in the impact another move would have.

“For the families who have made Killarney a home for the past six months we offer our support and welcome today’s announcement of a resolution,” a spokesperson said. 

“This situation is a symptom of an approach focused on bed management that does not bring into its decision making the impact on vulnerable women and children and a wider policy in relation to refugees that neglects long term planning.

“Such a proposed move is retraumatising and would cause untold damage to the children.  We need to ensure that this does not happen again.”

The Social Democrats said Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman must explain why the families were “put through the anxiety and stress of being told their lives were being uprooted”, only for the decision to be reversed at the last moment.

‘Chaos’

Its Children’s Spokesperson Jennifer Whitmore questioned “how exhaustive” the search for alternative accommodation was before the U-turn, noting that the government had insisted there were tight constraints on other options.

She claimed there has been”chaos” in O’Gorman’s department which has been in evidence throughout this week’s debacle.

“A group of 135 Ukrainian women and children were informed on Monday that they were being sent to Westport within 48 hours.

“In reaching this decision, no consideration seems to have been given for the fact that these vulnerable people had put down in roots in the community,” she said.

“Today, it transpires, that alternative accommodation has been found and the Ukrainian refugees can stay in Kerry. Clearly this is welcome, but it raises serious questions for the Minister and his Department.

“Most importantly, why were these families put through the anxiety and stress of being told their lives were being uprooted? Further, how exhaustive was the search for alternative accommodation, given new accommodation is now suddenly available?

“I have previously asked for a whole-of-government response to the Ukrainian crisis and regrettably there is still no evidence of that. Instead, there appears to be chaos in Minister O’Gorman’s Department which has been tasked with the sole responsibility of responding to this unprecedented situation.”

The Civil Society Forum spokesperson said that with Temporary Protection now being extended to March 2024 for refugees, sustainable planning for accommodating people for the next 2 years would be required.

“Hotels are not suitable for families. We urge the government to immediately increase the manpower at a senior level to the Dept of Children and to the local authorities so the capacity to manage the immediate crisis of beds is matched with a capacity to plan for the future that recognises refugees as people, traumatised and needing security.”

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