A NATIONAL taskforce is urgently required to co-ordinate the movement of thousands of Ukrainian refugees across the country, public reps in West Cork have urged.
They claim that State agencies, including the HSE, were not ‘plugging in’ to what was happening on the ground in Clonakilty earlier this week, and that there is ‘no coherent plan’, leaving volunteer and local groups to pick up the slack.
Clonakilty Community Hall was used as an emergency ‘rest centre’ this week – with 80 camp beds – which accommodated 57 refugees who arrived last Sunday morning.
While such centres are only meant to be used for 24-48 hours at a time, refugees slept in the hall for three nights. They were moved on to hotels in Skibbereen, Bandon and Cork Airport on Tuesday evening, but many observers who visited the community hall said it was unsuitable for families, which included elderly grandparents accompanying very young grandchildren.
A leaking roof on Monday, coupled with fire safety concerns, added to the issues at the venue, which will now close to facilitate remedial works to take place.
There was also just one interpreter available to the refugees, and she spent many hours acting as a translator in the hall.
Observers have said there now needs to be a more defined plan put in place before the next group of refugees arrives in Clonakilty.
And on Wednesday it was announced that the gym area of Dunmanway Swimming Pool was closing ‘with immediate effect’ in case it was needed to accommodate refugees over the Easter holidays.
This comes just a week after a busload of Ukrainian refugees arrived in Clonakilty expecting to be housed in a local hotel, but had to be turned away because the hotel had not been informed and was fully booked. They were later taken to Killarney.
Concern was also expressed that no HSE officials visited the Clonakilty hall, although Department of Social Protection officials did visit before most of the families departed for alternative accommodation.
Cork South West Fianna Fáil TD Christopher O’Sullivan agreed that people weren’t being moved fast enough out of the temporary centre.
‘It’s not a suitable centre, even in the short term, and they need to find a more secure place, as these people spent three nights there,’ said Deputy O’Sullivan. His sentiments were echoed by Fine Gael senator Tim Lombard.
While applauding the work of the Cork West Civil Defence, Irish Red Cross, West Cork Development Partnership and Cork County Council, as well as local volunteers, the government TD said there is a severe lack of ‘joined up’ thinking between the State agencies, including the International Protection Accommodation Services (IPASS).