Homeowners in Ireland have been asked to pledge spare rooms or vacant properties to house migrants for periods of up to a year as part of the government’s Irish Refugee Protection Programme.
In a new national campaign urging people to “put empty space to better use”, the Irish Red Cross said: “Pledging a vacant property or spare room will play a significant and valuable role in helping Syrian refugees rebuild their lives and settle in Irish communities.”
As well as calling on homeowners to pledge spare beds or rooms, the charity also wants holiday homes, second homes, and any other vacant properties in Ireland to be offered up for the cause of housing migrants.
Any asylum seeker or refugee housed through the scheme would be given a caseworker who provides them with education, healthcare, and employment support, explains the Irish Red Cross on its website.
The organisation, which was set up by Dublin nurse Elizabeth O’Herrin in 1939 to provide humanitarian aid, is administering the programme as part of Ireland’s effort to resettle 4,000 asylum seekers from camps in Greece and Italy.
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While hundreds of free rooms and vacant homes were pledged in response to the organisation’s previous campaign in 2015, only 88 translated into actual accommodation for migrants, with many people withdrawing their offers once they were contacted by the Irish Red Cross.
Despite limited success with regards to the number of people housed, the scheme has been promoted as a win-win situation for both Irish natives and migrants by the organisation as well as in the mainstream media, almost entirely with one example of a Baldoyle woman.
Featured in multiple pieces across several Irish newspapers and on the Red Cross website, Mary O’Reilly’s story has been promoted as a major success as she reported being “enriched” by her decision to welcome a 26-year-old Syrian man into her home looking out onto Dublin Bay.
“I have a house here with a spare room and I heard somebody say — and it was so true — the only difference between them and us is luck and it is, it’s just luck,” she said. “Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s my nature, but lots of people take in an Irish person. What’s the difference, are we not all the same?”
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Reporting that the arrangement was working well, the Red Cross said Mary was pleased to be “here to help” Wassim after taking redundancy to look after her mother, who died four years previously.
The Syrian has become “like one of the family”, she told Dublin Live, remarking that being able to sample the food he cooks is like “having an injection of Middle Eastern culture into my home”.
“I love different cultures. I went to Cuba this year. I love travelling and I would love to have gone to Damascus, but now I have this culture come and live with me.
“If there’s one downside to having Wassim stay with me it’s that he gets on a little too well with Lolly, my Tibetan terrier. It’s double the tidbits for her,” Mary added.