Donegal Support for Syrian Families

Two members of Donegal Local Development joined  Donegal Intercultural Platform this week to the new Emergency Reception and Orientation Centre in Ballaghderreen, Co. Roscommon to meet staff and Syrian families and learn about their issues and needs.  DLDC provided Travel supports through SICAP  for the delegation.

In advance of the arrival of the first group of Syrian Refugees to Donegal, expected in late summer, the Platform organised the trip and invited others from around the county to come and familiarise themselves with the issues that the families might face when they come to Inishowen.

The groups included members of the Intercultural Platform’s Refugee Inclusion Working Group, member s of the Inishowen Welcomes Network, members of the Islam in Letterkenny Group (Masjid), several doctors and community organisers and activists.

The delegation was led by Billy Banda, the co-chair of the Intercultural Platform, who outlined the aims of the visit which were to gain a better understand from the staff of their role in supporting the families, to hear first-hand from the families themselves, about their hopes and concern for their time in the reception centre and for the future as they move into homes in Ireland.

The Fact-finding visit listened to people’s stories about years with no access to schools, life in a series of refugee camps and their relief at finally getting to a reception and orientation centre in Ireland. However, they don’t know where they will eventually be sent, and if they will be able to find any sort of paid employment.

The delegation also brought over 50 family packs of foodstuffs, specially chosen for when those observing the fasting month of Ramadan, as well as toys, arts and crafts materials, paper, plasticine and colouring pencils for the children.

There are almost 200 people in the centre, from babies through to grandparents, family groups and single people. Most are from all over Syria and there are a few from Iraq as well. They are being prepared for life in other parts of the county, eventually living in houses and attending local schools, but first they are getting basic English classes, health screening and getting their Refugee Status papers.

The Donegal team agreed they were better informed now to help participate in the welcome and resettlement of the families that are coming to the county in late summer. All who visited confirmed that they would play a part in making Donegal a home from home for the new arrivals when they come.

The Intercultural Platform members have offered to provide basic Arabic classes for Donegal people, English Conversation classes for the Syrians, and provide cultural awareness and cultural competency training for those who would be working with the families when they arrive.

If you would like to learn more about the work of the Intercultural Platform contact Paul at 0860841433 or email  donegalip@gmail.com.

For supports from DLDC contact Stephen Barrett, SICAP email: sbarrett@dldc.org or call 074 9127056.