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Concern over ‘extremely limited’ translation services for refugees

Interpreters and “key workers” available to refugees engaging with health services are “extremely limited in Ireland”, a HSE committee meeting heard in September.

The issue of social inclusion was discussed at a meeting of the HSE safety and quality committee on 15 September, according to minutes seen by this newspaper. The topic was “introduced [by] Dr Lucy Michael and Dr Meera Sithi who are both involved with Syrian refugee resettlement in Ireland through the International Organisation for Migration”, according to the minutes.

Dr Michael gave the committee an overview of the experiences of four refugees and the challenges they faced  whilst settling into a new country, society and local community.

“The access to services, the language barrier, isolation, and mental health issues were some of the biggest challenges faced.”

The committee “agreed that key workers and interpreters are available to assist refugees in other  countries, but those services are extremely limited in Ireland”.

In many cases, according to Dr Michael, children in the family were used as translators to “support parents with understanding medical  information”. 

“The committee discussed services that would support such situations and it was agreed that Dr Michael revert back to [the] committee with a list of services she would like to see made available through the HSE for the refugees.” 

The committee agreed that it would  then discuss this matter further with the possibility of “community services being able to provide some basic health needs”. 

It was decided that the HSE audit and risk committee would follow-up and seek data from the HSE Chief Financial Officer, Mr Stephen Mulvany, with regards to costing “and spend to-date of providing interpreters”.

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