Refugees arriving in Ireland should be provided with easily accessible information in their native language and in an appropriate format as soon as possible after arrival, according to a study funded by the Irish Research Council.
The report focused on the Community Sponsorship Ireland (CSI) programme, established in 2019, which gives private citizens and community-based organisations an opportunity to directly support refugee families who are newly arrived here.
All participants in the study cited the need for people to be made aware of their rights and have all information required in relation to making complaints and reporting racist incidents.
Not having access to this information reduces the autonomy of individuals, one volunteer said.
The recent response to the Ukrainian crisis saw information and forms made available on a Government webpage in both Ukrainian and Russian shortly after refugees began to arrive.
"The availability of a central and official source of information was empowering for those fleeing Ukraine as well as the communities and groups in Ireland rapidly coming together to provide supports," the study, published on Monday, stated.
Emphasising the importance of providing refugees with pertinent information, the report — led by Dr Karen Smith from the UCD School of Social Justice in collaboration with Nasc, the Migrant Refugee Rights Centre — was available in both English and Arabic.
Having access to information allows the resettled person to advocate for themselves and empowers them to speak up if they are being discriminated against or denied their rights. That sense of autonomy is important as they begin to settle in their new home and build their new life.
Where a person is part of Community Sponsorship, sponsors assume a great deal of responsibility for and influence over the resettled persons.
This creates a high level of dependency on the sponsor, as well as a power imbalance. Often due to feelings of appreciation and gratitude, resettled persons can feel unable to assert themselves and speak up for what they want if that differs from what the sponsor believes is best for them.
“In some cases, they regarded the volunteers as ‘family’,” said Dr Smith.
Nasc CEO Fiona Hurley said the findings of the report raised important considerations in respect of the unequal power dynamics beyond the Community Sponsorship programme, as thousands of families across Ireland are now hosting refugees in their homes.
The study also recommended the establishment of an independent body, such as a dedicated Ombudsman or commissioner, responsible for promoting and safeguarding the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland.
The reported experiences of refugee families in Ireland under the Community Sponsorship programme highlighted the need for more formal structure and greater oversight, the study found.