Red Cross: Tents not a long-term solution for refugees on dignity grounds

Housing refugees in tents for long periods of time is not encouraged due to the impact it has on people’s dignity, the head of the Red Cross has said.

Two weeks ago, the Government confirmed it would have to house newly arrived Ukrainian refugees in tents due to a “significant shortfall” in accommodation options.

The summer months have seen an increase in the number of arrivals from Ukraine, with more than 10,000 people fleeing here since May 1st, an average of around 650 people per week, according to the Department of Equality.

Speaking on a visit to Ireland, Jagan Chapagain, the secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said there was “tremendous solidarity” for refugees in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

However, the situation “could last much longer than we would want”, and that “solidarity and generosity will be needed in the medium term”.

“We need to stop … using the words migrants and refugees. It’s people. We’re talking about people, just like you and me, just like our families, our children, our parents. Treating people as people is extremely important,” he added.

The global outpouring of support for Ukraine is a positive thing, he said, adding there is a need to “expand that” for the rest of the crises across the world.

Asked about the provision of support to Ukrainian refugees in the State, Mr Chapagain said in the beginning “Ireland was not prepared to receive so many people in such a short period of time.

“Of course in the early days, some of the measures put in place may not be optimal. But I think over a period of time, it is important to make sure basic standards are met,” he said.

“Globally, we don’t encourage to keep people in tents except for a short period of time, just because it doesn’t provide a needed dignity for people to live over a period of time. For a short time, if we have to do it, we have to do it.”

Deirdre Garvey, secretary general of Irish Red Cross, said Irish support for Ukrainian refugees remains very strong, with the organisation housing around 120 Ukrainians every week.

Ms Garvey said that of Irish hosts who have been surveyed about whether they will continue to host refugees, 83 per cent have said they will sign another agreement.

Outside of the Ukraine crisis, there are many other humanitarian crises emerging recent times, including the earthquake in Morocco last weekend and the flooding in Libya in recent days.

The earthquake in Morocco, which reached 6.8 on the Richter scale, has caused mass devastation, with more than 2,800 deaths and thousands more missing.

Mr Chapagain said: “Unfortunately, I think the final picture will be much worse than what we know so far. There will be huge psychosocial support needed because people have been still sleeping outside, there is trauma,” he added.

The flooding in Libya is also a big concern, as further information emerges about the impact Storm Daniel has had. Buildings have been destroyed in Derna, while other settlements along the coast have been hit, including the second biggest city of Benghazi.

“The latest information we have, from this morning, is more than 2,800 deaths. Close to 9,800 or so are missing. We fear the final death toll could be significantly high,” Mr Chapagain said.

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