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'I cried with my daughter': Ukrainians given four days to leave Dublin hotel and find new school

Two sisters with five, eight, and sixteen year old children are being moved across Dublin after living in a hotel for the last year.

UKRAINIAN FAMILIES WHO have been living in a Dublin hotel for the last year are “heartbroken” at the prospect of having to leave in just three days.

A group of ten families got letters from the Department of Children and Equality informing them that it is “no longer possible” for them to remain in a hotel in the south east inner city. 

They are being moved to accommodation in Saggart in three day’s time. The Journal understands that other Ukrainians resident at the hotel are not being relocated, as though the amounts of beds being offered is set to decrease, some refugees will continue to be housed there. 

Some of those who have to move have spoken of their disappointment to be leaving the locality and at having to pull several children out of nearby schools.

As a result, three Ukrainian children who have attended a local primary for the last year and one secondary school student are now facing moving schools, a year after they left behind their lives in Ukraine to seek protection in Ireland. 

Marina and Tatyana are sisters, and they are the mothers of the children who are being moved. 

Tatyana’s daughter is eight years old. She cried when her mum told her that she would have to move again. 

“I cried with my daughter. I don’t care where I go, I care about her. It is a great shock and upset for her. She is worried about new friends, a new home again.

“She is worried about leaving behind the people she has gotten to know. She was worried when we had to leave Kyiv too,” Tatyana said. 

Her sister Marina is worried about moving her five-year-old son, and sixteen-year-old daughter. 

“This is a great shock and stress for them.

“I don’t understand who makes these decisions. No representative came and spoke with us. Yesterday we just got the letter with our checkout date in three day’s time. No one contacted us about the children. It is like some version of the lottery who stays and who goes, it is totally random,” Marina said. 

The sisters spoke to the hotel manager about their situation, and they said that he was also shocked and wrote a letter to officials to ask why they were being moved when they had children. 

“The principal of the primary school wrote a letter too. We don’t know if the schools are already too full in this new place we are going. The journey time to their current schools will be an hour and forty minutes for us, it will not be possible. 

“Friends of ours were given a month’s notice when they had to move. How can we find a school in four days?” Marina said. 

The sisters spoke to The Journal after learning that their home city was attacked in one of the biggest Russian missile offensives in weeks last night. Thousands are without power, and six deaths have been reported in Kyiv. 

“Today was one of the heaviest mass rocket attacks on Ukrainian territory. Our president said so. My husband and our neighbours spent almost four hours in the basement. I also know that in several districts of Kyiv the heating plants were damaged and there was an emergency blackout.

“Thank god our house and my sister’s house are safe, but when the city is shelled it is very scary and dangerous. We don’t have specially equipped places, and no one knows where the shell will hit. People go down into basements, take chairs and blankets with them and spend a lot of time there until the air raid is over. 

“We are so grateful to Ireland for having us here, we cannot go home. We are all taking English classes and my sister and I are seriously looking for jobs. We just don’t want our children to have to move schools, we don’t think it makes sense,” Marina said. 

The letter sent by the Department to the families states that all accommodation provided to them under the EU Temporary Protection Directive is short term, and that they may have to make further moves in the future. 

“You should be aware that in some instances accommodation provided may be shared with other Beneficiaries of Temporary Protection. It is also important to note that parents with children under 18 will be responsible, at all times, for their children in such settings,” the letter stated. 

The Department told the families that should they refuse the offer made to relocate them, further offers will not be made. 

“You will not be permitted to remain in your current accommodation,” the letter read, adding “You will not be permitted access to CityWest Transit Hub”. 

The families were told that if they have children enrolled in local schools, “you can contact [TUSLA] to arrange for re-enrolment in schools servicing the local area where your new accommodation is located”. 

Locals offer support

A group of local women who have been supporting the Ukrainian families since they arrived at the hotel are speaking out against them being moved across the city, and in particular against the four children having to move schools. 

Annette Clancy, a lecturer at UCD, said that this group of Ukrainian women and children have become “integrated” in the local community. 

“These are our friends,” she said. 

“This happened yesterday on International Women’s Day. It is heartbreaking for these families, who have faced so much pain, and dislocation already, to have to tell their children that they are going to have to move to new schools, after they have spent the last year making friends here and learning English. 

“One of the mothers in question got news that her home street in Ukraine has been bombed today. These people have had to adjust to so much change already, and they have put down roots here, it is wrong to move them now,” Clancy added. 

When Clancy and other locals including Gina Moxley found out that Ukrainian families were living in a hotel nearby, they threw a welcome party on a local street, and local businesses donated welcome gifts for goodie bags that were handed out including vouchers for haircuts, cinema tickets, and toys. 

“Since last March we have all become friends, many of my neighbours here have had the women and their children in for dinner, and the Ukrainians have cooked for them too. 

“There has been a lot of talk in the media about Ukrainian families and other refugees being housed in working class areas. This is a middle class area and we are asking for them to stay here as they have become a part of the community, but they are being made to leave abruptly,” Clancy said. 

In a statement made to The Journal, The Department for Children and Equality said: 

“The contractor in question has reduced the number of rooms available to the Ukraine Crisis Temporary Accommodation Team and intensive efforts are now being undertaken to source alternative emergency accommodation. 

“Short term emergency accommodation provided by the State is temporary in nature. Beneficiaries of Temporary Protection are told on arrival that at times they may be transferred to new accommodation, potentially with short notice. The Department understands the situation is difficult for those being asked to leave.” 

Government urged to provide school transport

A spokesperson for the Department added that this decision has been made within the context of a “severe accommodation shortage”, adding that they are endeavouring to “minimise the disruption to residents as much as possible”. 

Independent TD Joan Collins said that she has made urgent representations to Minister Roderic O’Gorman calling for his department to find a way to allow the families to remain in their locality. 

“We knew that this was coming because hotels are offering less rooms to the Government for temporary accommodation as the next tourism season approaches, and that is understandable from their point of view. 

“However, the Government has also known this for quite some time, and action now needs to be taken to ensure that these children do not leave their schools after a year,” Collins said.

The TD stated that though everything should be done to find a way for the families to stay in the area, if this is not possible, the department should “provide a school bus or some form of transport to the children from the new accommodation to their current schools”. 

Local Sinn Fein Councillor Maire Devine, who is also a registered mental health nurse, said that there is a real risk that uprooting the children now will cause them “more psychological trauma”. 

“These children have been through so much already. They have found some security now in getting to know the area they live in and the staff and other pupils in their schools. 

“To make them start that process all over again would be wrong. The Government has known for a long time, through a decade of the housing crisis, that relying on hotels to accommodate refugees and people facing homelessness isn’t reliable. 

“We need to go into vacant buildings and renovate them so we can offer people accommodation that is more secure and permanent. Hotels are businesses and they are under pressure to cater to tourists as well. 

“We don’t know how many other Ukrainian families have been sent these letters by the Department, or if there is a framework there to prioritise children who are enrolled in schools when officials are looking at who to move first in cases where less rooms are available after contracts have been renegotiated. This process needs to be more transparent,” Devine said. 

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