Nasc, the migrant and refugee rights centre, says that refugee families who have been reunited here have a high risk of homelessness and have issues accessing healthcare.
In its latest report, Nasc, which is based in Cork, found that access to housing is a problem for such refugee families. It is not possible for refugees to apply for social housing support, such as housing assistance payment, in advance of their family members arriving in Ireland.
This delays their search for housing and increases their risk of homelessness.
Applications for social protection payments cannot be made until after family members have arrived, so there is a delay in receiving financial support. This impacts unaccompanied minors' education, as they feel obliged to work to support their family.
The report also highlights access to healthcare and mental health supports, and the lack of projects to integrate refugees. Some also spoke about racism and exclusion.
The report makes 36 recommendations, including the amendment of the International Protection Act 2015, to provide for greater family reunification rights, and the extension of the time limit for applications, which is one year. The report also said free legal aid should be extended to those applying for family reunification.
It also recommends the provision of integration support and of intercultural workers to help reunified families after their arrival in Ireland, as well as the upskilling of mental health and service providers to ensure that they understand the unique experience of reunified families.
The report also said provision of English-language classes should be expanded, and reunified families should receive the same support as refugees who come to Ireland as part of international programmes.
Nasc CEO, Fiona Finn, said refugees who have survived persecution spend years living in direct provision. "[They] were left entirely without support when their family members arrived in Ireland," Ms Finn said. "The stress of finding housing, employment, medical care, and schools for children often places huge financial and emotional burden on families trying to overcome years of separation and trauma.
"With the enactment of the International Protection Act 2015, which significantly restricted family reunification rights for refugees, Nasc began to see more and more refugee families struggling to cope with the reality of a permanent separation from their family members," she said.
"Every week, our legal service has to tell a refugee that their parent, their 19-year-old child, or their minor sibling is not considered eligible to apply for family reunification. This has a devastating impact on families."
One of the research participants spoke about discovering that their family reunification application had been refused: "So, it’s a big, big shock when people’s applications are declined.
"I remember when mine, the first one I had made, was declined I was very angry ... And it was all dark. My life was not good at all. ...I feel very, very sad for those whose applications are not successful, because they just get so desperate.
"And that trauma that they already have starts to impact them physically. ... And I know a devastated family here in Ireland, because their applications have been declined twice."