Some Ukrainian refugees feel they have found “a second family” in Ireland as the country marks its first Refugee Week.
Refugee Week is a festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary.
Upon the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 20,000 Irish people volunteered their homes to refugees.
“Nothing like this has ever been seen before to this scale,” Newstalk reporter Josh Crosbie told The Hard Shoulder.
This is the first time Ireland has celebrated World Refugee Week, and Josh spoke to Ukrainian refugees and Irish hosts about their experience.
Ola is currently staying with the McEntee family in Trim, Co Meath.
“It's a great experience,” she said. “I've met a lot of beautiful people.”
Ola is studying graphic design and regularly attends meetings for reguees in the Summerhill Community Centre.
“I've met my second family here,” she said. “It's my Irish father and mother, they’ve been supporting me from the first time I arrived in their home.”
'I would do it all over again'
Alan McEntee said living with Ola has been ideal for herself and his family.
“We're empty nesters, we have a house, we had loads of room,” he said. “We could offer whoever came an independent part of our house.”
Mr McEntee also said Ola has become part of their family.
“We have grandchildren in the north of Ireland and whenever they come to visit, the first thing they ask is ‘where’s Ola?’,” he said.
He said he has not met anyone who had a bad experience with hosting Ukrainian refugees.
“We have never done anything like this before – it’s been a very positive experience for us and I would do it all over again,” he said.
'A strange person in my house'
On the streets of Dublin, Josh found that many people were not comfortable hosting a Ukrainian refugee.
“I wouldn't feel comfortable with someone else living in my home,” one man said. “It doesn’t matter whether they’re a refugee or another Irish person.”
“I have enough space in my house, but I didn’t feel it was something family members would agree to and I think it’s something I would find difficult myself,” a woman said.
“It’s a strange person living in my house.”
'If I had space, I would share'
Another man said he would host a refugee if he had the space.
“I don’t have an extra room, unfortunately,” he said. “If I had it, I probably would [share].”
“The Irish have been refugees all over the world, so anything we can do to help out refugees is what we should do.”
There are currently 6,000 hosts to Ukrainian refugees in Ireland, according to Help Irish Host spokesperson Ros Jones.
“We know that government department and local authorities are working all the time to activate pledged accommodation, but there is a crisis,” she said.
“We need people, we need joined-up, innovative, collaborative approaches from across all departments and groups working in the migrant space.”
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