Hosting refugees from Ukraine is easier than you think, but it is more likely to be successful if you take advice first. And if you wish to be matched with a suitable person, it can happen quickly, as organisations such as Doras now provide a matching service.

Hosting refugees is easier than you think – but take advice first

Although many people assumed it was necessary for intending hosts to register in advance with the Irish Red Cross, this is not the case. As common sense might tell you, any home-owner can take in refugees from Ukraine or indeed anyone else in a difficult plight, if they so wish.

“There is nothing to stop you from doing that. It is your house so you can bring whoever you want to into it,” agreed John Lennon, CEO of Doras, when the question was put to him last night.

He quickly added: “But we would strongly recommend that you follow a process that ensures that expectations are managed, that you’re going to be able to cope with the situation and that the guests, before they arrive, understand what they need to understand.”

John was speaking after an advice event held for potential host families in the mid-west. It is the first of three information sessions being held this month by Limerick-based Doras, Cork-based Nasc and the Irish Refugee Council in Dublin.

• John Lannon of Doras with Angie and Aideen Gough, two of the founders of the newly established charity Helping Irish Hosts. Visit their website at: https://www.helpingirishhosts.com/

While the Irish Red Cross (IRC) is helping to place refugees with host families, this has not happened at the speed that many would like, although there was no criticism of the IRC at the Limerick event: The aim was to give practical advice and highlight voluntary groups and other organisations also providing help.

For example, a volunteer who helped to found a newly registered charity called ‘Helping Irish Hosts’ spoke at the Limerick event at length and in glowing terms about how taking in refugees from Ukraine enriched her family’s life. You only had to listen to Angie Gough to be convinced of the merits of being a host. Their website is now up and running at – https://www.helpingirishhosts.com/

Outside Dublin, national organisation Doras is on the other end of a phone to support people in particular in counties Limerick, Clare and Tipperary.

Established in 2000, Nasc does similar work but on a wider scale in Munster and beyond, while the Irish Refugee Council is 30 years old and has a national remit.

Majo Rivas, community sponsorship manager with Nasc, speaking at the first of three events to give people advice on hosting refugees.

“Help is available. We’ll make it work for you,” promised John. He doesn’t just mean over-the-phone advice or tips on their website. Members of his team have been accompanying people while they register with state services. Only this week a member of his team accompanied a Ukrainian refugee to make an urgent trip to the dentist.

Doras staff and volunteers include people who speak Ukrainian and Russian, among other languages, and they have experience supporting refugees from other warzones before Russia invaded Ukraine.

John said: “There are safeguards that need to be put in place, but we can do this quickly. We know there is a lot of goodwill in communities.”

“There is a lot of practical information and advice that we can share quickly with people. There’s also the reflective pieces that we want people to think about before taking Ukrainians or anybody else from warzones into their homes,” he said.

Last night’s Limerick event attracted around 30 people and organisers no doubt hope for higher numbers in the bigger cities of Cork (on Thurs, July 14th) and Dublin (on Wed, July 20th). There is a need to move swiftly and find more host families, because many thousands of refugees currently staying in student accommodation must move out when summer ends.

We asked John about a hypothetical offer from an easygoing family in a large house with spare bedrooms, a spare bathroom and a shared kitchen, and who accept the refugees may need to stay for a long time.

“It sounds like it could work,” he said. “There are a lots of rooms and vacant properties, lots like this that hasn’t been tapped into yet.”

Asked can one directly approach Doras to be matched with one or more refugees who could be a good fit for your family and circumstances, he said:

“Yes. We are going to work with other partners to find a way to match up a host with guests who need a place to live. We’ve been doing this for refugees from other parts of the world (before the war in Ukraine).”

He said Doras has been working with others, such as the International Organisation for Migration, the Irish Red Cross, Helping Irish Hosts, government departments and others “to direct people in the right way”.

“What we’re now doing nationally and locally is finding ways to make that process faster, because we recognise there is a lot of goodwill out there. We also recognise there are a lot of people who have been waiting months to make their room or building available.”

As was mentioned at the meeting, there are Community Response Forums to support Ukrainian refugees in every county and the Limerick forum, it was reported last night, is working well. The forums are overseen by the State’s 31 local authorities “to coordinate the community-led response in the provision of assistance and support to Ukrainian refugees as they are accommodated around the country”. Local development companies are key to this work and they are also available to directly provide support and advice to Ukrainians anywhere in Ireland and to groups wishing to help them. Similarly, the 121 State-funded family resource centres are providing support at more local level.

Speed is of the essence now in matching supply and demand as over 35,000 refugees have arrived here in a matter of months.

 

CORK EVENT – July 14th, 6.30-8pm.

Venue: St. Peter’s, 87A North Main Street, Cork City, T12 RF8D. Host: NASC.

 

DUBLIN EVENT – July 20th, 6-8pm

Venue: Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin 2. Host: Irish Refugee Council.

 

These events will provide practical and detailed information and they are for:

  • Individuals involved in hosting refugees.
  • Community volunteers involved in the integration of refugees.
  • Community workers active in supporting refugees.
  • Refugee hosting groups.

USEFUL LINKS:

Supporting refugees and all seeking to help them: https://doras.org/

Supporting hosts in particular: https://www.helpingirishhosts.com/

Detailed information for Ukrainians coming to Ireland: https://nascireland.org/know-your-rights/ukrainians-ireland-information-note

News & information on Ireland’s response: https://www.irishrefugeecouncil.ie/Pages/Category/ukraine-response

Local Development Companies countrywide: https://ildn.ie/directory/.

To email any Community Response Forum in the country see: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/d7cf1-how-people-can-help/

Family Resource Centres countrywide: https://www.tusla.ie/services/family-community-support/family-resource-centres/find-family-resource-centre/

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