The Ombudsman for Children has said he will watch to ensure commitments made about the education of Syrian refugees in special reception centres around the country are met.
Niall Muldoon was making his comments after the publication of a new report which looked at the Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres (EROCs), including the issue of children’s schooling.
The three EROCs were established by the Department of Justice in Dungarvan, Monasterevin and Ballaghadereen and are intended as short-term homes for refugees during an initial reception and orientation period of three-to-four months, pending their resettlement to other parts of the country.
But Mr Muldoon said a number of families have been living in the centres for much longer than originally envisioned, with some staying for up to nine months.
“The education provision in these centres was never set up for this length of stay,” he said.
“In 2017, we visited the three Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres (EROCs) then in operation. We discovered that schools in EROCs are not recognised by the Department of Education and Skills.
“This means it can be much more difficult for the centres to access the additional supports needed to maximise educational outcomes for these children.”
Mr Muldoon said parents were anxious to get their children into mainstream schools and were also concerned their children were not accessing services in the same way as children in regular school placings.
“I wrote to the department expressing my concerns and in response the [Department of Education] outlined the work underway by National Educational Psychological Service and the DES Inspectorate which has resulted in this published report.
“I note with interest its recommendations and especially the suite of actions agreed between the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Justice and Equality and Tusla’s Educational Welfare Services.”
He said he supported the recommendation that children’s attendance at these schools should be time-limited to a maximum of three months and added he would be seeking updates to ensure the recommendations were acted upon.