Local authorities should help the Red Cross and Government to speed up the processing of thousands of accommodation pledges from the public, a Fine Gael TD has said.
Deputy Ciaran Cannon, who opened up his Galway home to Afghan refugees last year, said learning from the experience of the Covid Community Call, local government must repurpose Community Response forums across the country as soon as possible to support Ukrainian refugees.
Deputy Cannon said, “I recently called for the establishment of a registration portal for those interested in housing Ukrainian people arriving to our shores. While I am delighted that the Red Cross has launched such a platform, they are now under severe pressure to process thousands of offers of accommodation.
“Speaking at an online Fine Gael event last week, Liam O’Dwyer, interim Secretary General of the Red Cross, said they had received 20,000 pledges to date. I know this number has increased since then and following up on this volume of offers is a mammoth task.
“The Red Cross is currently dividing the accommodation pledges into two categories; firstly, vacant properties such as single units, empty apartments and standalone houses, and secondly, shared accommodation. 30% of the pledges are vacant properties, while 70% are shared accommodation.
“The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and the Red Cross agreed to begin with the processing of the vacant properties as there are no child protection issues or similar concerns with standalone accommodation.
“Making contact with thousands of people in a short space of time is a huge job. Although the Red Cross and the Department have contributed significant resources to tackling the task, all organisations must pitch in to ensure we get Ukrainian refugees into safe and secure homes as soon as possible.
“Local communities across the country benefitted from the Community Call response to Covid-19 launched in 2020. Strong response systems were put in place, and links between State, private and voluntary organisations were developed at the time.
“Local authorities must repurpose Community Response forums across the country to coordinate all those involved in providing support to Ukrainian refugees as they integrate into our communities. Resources must be provided to the Red Cross to aid them in processing accommodation pledges, with the sole aim of housing people as soon as possible.
“This is a crisis on a scale similar to Covid-19, and local authorities must respond with the same urgency and investment to provide refugees with health, education, and accommodation supports,” concluded Deputy Cannon.