*Photograph: Joe Buckley
75 UKRAINIAN refugees in Shannon are to be relocated to Lisdoonvarna on Monday.

On Monday last, Ukrainians residing at Phoenix House in Shannon were informed they would be relocated to North Clare unless they found alternative accommodation by Monday (June 24th).

Phoenix House has been home for 200 refugees but 75 of these are to move to Lisdoonvarna with 60 to go to the Imperial Hotel and the remaining 15 to the Burren Castle Hotel. 27 of the residents had been in full-time employment in the Shannon area.

Residents have said they will have to leave the jobs they have secured in Shannon with many children already enrolled in Shannon schools. Ukrainians have raised concerns on the difficulties posed to them now in securing employment and school places in North Clare.

There had been no prior notice given to elected representatives in Shannon or Lisdoonvarna prior to the residents receiving the correspondence that they had to move.

An Taoiseach has said leasing accommodation for refugees has had a “significant cost” to the taxpayer and that the Government are keen to reduce their footprint in this sphere.

Clare TD, Cathal Crowe (FF) raised the matter in Dáil Éireann in recent days.

Minister for for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman (GP) in a written response to Deputy Crowe stated, “the contract for this property was terminated due to concerns raised following a site visit by the Ukraine Compliance team, along with QTS, an independent inspection company hired by the Department, and the Department of Social Protection. The Department is consolidating the BOTP accommodation portfolio, with a focus on ending contracts with non-compliant providers, and in this context a decision was taken to terminate this property”.

Minister O’Gorman added, “Every effort has been made to keep BOTPs as local as possible, but there are very few vacancies in the area due to a significant number of moves. BOTPs are free to make their own arrangements for accommodation, or to reach out to the Red Cross or the Local Authority to avail of pledged or offer a home properties. All accommodation provided by DCEDIY is temporary, and BOTPs are informed of this when the request accommodation from the State. Over the next months a significant number of contracts will be ended across the country, and as much notice will be provided to BOTPs to allow them to make their own arrangements if they wish to do so”.

In Clare, there are 5,581 Ukrainians benefitting from temporary accommodation, 2,992 of which are located in 39 multi-occupancy facilities throughout the county.

Raising the matter with the Taoiseach, Deputy Crowe commented, “The enactment of Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda Bill has put huge pressure on counties in the Border area. It has added to fear and anxiety for the migrant community. Many in Britain are seeing that migrating to Northern Ireland may now be their best option. This has manifested itself in many pressures here in the South.

“Perhaps one manifestation of the problems we have seen in the past 48 hours has been at Phoenix House, which is a very large building in Shannon in County Clare housing 200 refugees. On Monday, letters were issued to all Ukrainian war refugees there to say they need to be out in two weeks and will be moved to Lisdoonvarna. Most of these people are working in factories and companies in Shannon. They have kids enrolled in schools. This is devastating. Instead of a community saying it does not want them, we actually have a community inundating Councillor David Griffin and I with messages saying these people work in the community, their children are being schooled in local schools and the community wants to keep them there. We have trade unions, locals and activists all telling us it is illogical to take them out of Phoenix House in Shannon and move them 60 km up the road. May I add that when they do move 60 km up the road, with them goes the employment. They will be on social welfare at that point because they will be in Lisdoonvarna, where there is no centre of employment. Can the Taoiseach please put eyes on this? Can he and the Minister, Deputy O’Gorman, please intervene in this? It makes sense to keep them in Phoenix House rather than moving children, women and families 60 km up the road and discommoding them entirely. The community is very much speaking in unison to Councillor David Griffin and I on this matter”.

Responding to Crowe’s contribution, the Taoiseach said, “I need to be honest with people that as we are seeing the number of Ukrainian people in State accommodation reduce, we are reducing our footprint in terms of the amount of accommodation that we are leasing because there is a significant cost to the taxpayer here. I will raise this issue specifically, and the concerns raised to the Deputy Crowe and Councillor Griffin with regard to Phoenix House as well”.

Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) said it was “deplorable” to give two weeks notice to residents. “Children have already gone through horrific circumstances to get here and have been attending local schools and made friends. This may affect schools too.
We need to listen to their stories and how this is affecting them, those who work here and are contributing, they have made friends , they have become involved in local community volunteer groups”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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