A report on the integration of Syrian refugees in Ireland has highlighted how language barriers have created difficulties for people resettling in this country.

Ireland's United Nations Migration Agency (IOM) has researched the experiences of refugees who came to Ireland as part of the Government's Irish Refugee Protection Programme.

Under the UNHCR-led programme, Ireland brought 2,108 Syrian refugees from Lebanon and Jordan to resettle by 2021.

The majority of those arriving were family groups, 40% of whom were minors. Of those, three-quarters were children under the age of 12.

The report has described the experiences of 153 Syrian refugees who arrived in this country between 2015 and 2019.

They were interviewed as part of the research.

It found that integration was strong in respect of refugees' security of immigration status, sense of belonging, feelings of safety, security of tenure in housing, and children's experiences in education.

However, the report, published by the Department of Integration showed that despite "an overwhelming enthusiasm" amongst the refugees to learn English, supports were lacking.

It noted that the provision of formal language education, supplementary resources, and opportunities for natural language acquisition (through community events and interpreter-supported participation in cultural events) did not keep pace with the demands that refugees faced in acquiring English and using it in day-to-day life while establishing their new lives.

The domain upon which this has had the most significant impact has been work.

The research found that language barriers affected refugees' uptake of labour market entry supports, job applications, participation in the labour market, and access to higher or further education courses to convert or acquire new qualifications to get work.

It has suggested that information about internal migration and supports to relocate for suitable employment could be beneficial in facilitating refugees to access appropriate level employment and contribute to sectors where their qualifications are relevant.

"Encouraging refugees into work without the English language (as some have experienced) would be an insufficient response alone - international research shows that migrants in such work are less likely to acquire fluency in the new language," it said.

Researchers noted the need for concerted efforts to provide language supports and the use of English in everyday social situations are all necessary to address these key integration concerns.

Health and wellbeing highlight the impact of access to employment, family reunification and social connections in particular.

Self-rated health assessments were accompanied by strong narratives of isolation, and low levels of spoken English aggravate this isolation.

Healthcare quality is, on the whole, affected primarily by one concern, and that is language according to the report.

"Access to interpreters is inconsistent and frequently falls below standards established in the Irish health system," it said.

Almost all the refugees that were interviewed as part of the research reported that they have family outside
Ireland that they keep in touch with regularly.

Requests for help with family reunification were the most common additional information at the end of interviews in the study.

Lack of understanding of the process and its limitations on eligible family "led to frustration and disappointment, as well as conflict with resettlement workers and interpreters who refused to help or discouraged applications".

The report pointed out that although information was provided in pre-departure orientation on eligibility for reunification, the evidence suggested that trauma may affect the way in which the information was processed.

It said repetition of that information could reduce later distress, as family reunification possibilities are so important to a choice of destination for resettled refugees who choose to travel ahead of other family members.

No one under 18 was interviewed as part of the research, however, refugee parents talked about the hope they felt for their children's future.

Generally, parents of young girls expressed their satisfaction that their daughters were safe in Ireland, and had opportunities to participate and progress in different fields to follow their goals in work and education.

One fifth (19%) experienced antisocial behaviour, with 12% experiencing racist incidents including
microaggressions, vandalism and violence.

However, the research found no evidence that participants were aware of key institutions, their rights and supports in these cases.

"As with social links, signposting needs reinforcement and clarity for refugees to counter language barriers and adaptation," it said.

Generally, antisocial behaviours were experienced at different levels, such as experiences of racial, cultural, or religious harassment or incidents and hate crime, especially by Muslim women who were wearing the hijab.

School-age children reported experiences of incidents of bullying or racist abuse in schools and feeling fearful or insecure.

It said there were a small number of cases of children being bullied or excluded, however the report said the majority felt safe.

It also noted that those from areas such as Donegal and Cavan expressed their full satisfaction with their neighbourhood in terms of community safety, social cohesion and availability of necessary amenities along with financial security.

People felt welcome in those areas and had not experienced hostility.

Irish-Syrian journalist Razan Ibraheem said it is "essential" that more professional English language classes are provided for refugees coming to Ireland.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Ms Ibraheem said from her own experience, language is a crucial part of integration and being able to communicate in a new community.

"There are English language classes provided, however, talking to some of the Syrian refugees arriving to Ireland, what they need more is professional English classes with a professional curriculum. We need more experienced teachers."

She also said integration is not a one way process.

"It is important for the local community to communicate with the newcomers", adding that refugees coming to Ireland need the chance to practice in real life situations and often one of the barriers is confidence.