A new report has found that bed wetting, nightmares, difficulties sleeping and emotional turmoil are issues affecting refugee children who fled to Ireland from war-torn Syria. It found supports for the children and their parents tend to be haphazard, with training in trauma-awareness not routinely available to the different professionals who work with them.
The report concludes the children face considerable challenges upon arrival in Ireland and need greater support from schools, youth services and communities.
Published today by the Children’s Rights Alliance, ‘Safe Haven: A Study on the Needs of Refugee Children Arriving in Ireland through the Irish Refugee Protection Programme’ (IRPP) found “no overarching framework or guidelines” for local authorities and resettlement staff on steps they should take to support families in their area to integrate.
It also found that refugee children and parents experience difficulties accessing appropriate mental health supports.
In Education, extra supports to learn and integrate are not always available. The report said schools “need far greater capacity to meet the learning, language and socio-emotional needs of young refugees”. One stakeholder remarked that often children were “quite academically able” but ended up directed towards Leaving Cert Applied.
Language proved a barrier for children at school, accessing healthcare and forming friendships, as well as a major barrier for parents in obtaining information, communicating with schools and helping with homework. The report said “Language supports are provided but are not always enough”.
A lack of cultural understanding and paternalistic attitudes by some staff in Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres where families are residing, sometimes amounting to over-involvement in family life. “This needs to be addressed,” the report said.
Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said Ireland needed to provide a safe haven to a bigger group of refugee children.
Having set up the IRPP in 2015, Ireland pledged to accept 4,000 refugees but as of June this year, the figure was at 2,519.
Dr Karen Smith, one of the study’s co-authors said there was a “pressing need for a more systematic and evidence-based approach to implementation of resettlement programmes, greater training and support for service providers, as well as ongoing monitoring and evaluation”.