Increased demand on Barka IE help

‘Overwhelmed’ charity getting requests from immigrants to help them return home after Irish dream turns into nightmare

Ralph Riegel, Mon 18 Mar 2024

More than 200 eastern Europeans who moved to Ireland to work only to fall into a nightmare of poverty, addiction and homelessness were supported and helped to return to their home countries last year by a Polish charity which now plans to expand from Dublin into Cork and Limerick.

Barka admitted it has been overwhelmed by demand for its support services across Ireland since the end of the Covid-19 pandemic and the inflation crisis.

Hundreds of migrant workers are threatened with homelessness after being hit by surging inflation and soaring rents across Ireland.

The stress of coping with this has led many into addiction problems.


Barka – which was established in Poland after the fall of communism to help the needy – works with people suffering from health and addiction problems.

Critically, it works to help people reconnect with their support network of family and friends in their home countries.

Barka began its Irish operations in Dublin more than 12 years ago.

Andrew Keogh, Barka’s senior UK project manager, said demand for their services in Ireland has soared over the past few years.

“We have been working with the Dublin City Council for nearly 12 years.

“As in London, Barka develops close relations with foreign embassies in Dublin as well as other charities such as the Simon Community, the Franciscans, the Capuchins, the Merchants Quay Project and others.

“We have an office space on Dominic Street in Dublin and Barka workers visit hospitals, clinics, prisons such as Wheatfield, Mountjoy, Portlaoise as well as homelessness day-care centres.”

Barka even works with the GAA, cultural and church groups to ensure support reaches those most in need.

“Our referrals sometimes come from the gardaí. We roughly reconnect 200 people a year but the demand is increasing. Now even some Ukrainians are facing homelessness in Ireland,” Mr Keogh said.

Last year, four Ukrainians who fell on hard times in Ireland were assisted back to a support community in Poland located close to the Ukrainian border.

Though focused on Dublin since 2012, Barka has been urged to expand into Cork and Limerick given the number of eastern European nationals in need of their help in the midwest and southwest regions.

“Due to the recently reported increase in homelessness, we are currently planning to roll out an outreach mobile intervention team project to all regions within Ireland,” Mr Keogh said.

“Irish hotels and hostels are full with refugees from Ukraine and Afghanistan – as a result, we also noticed this trend of foreign nationals ending up on the streets or in precarious situations.”

The plight of migrants living rough was highlighted during this month’s cold snap and snowfalls.

Barka was founded by Barbara and Tomasz Sadowski, whose daughter, Ewa, now works with their UK operation.

The charity has its headquarters in Poznan in western Poland but operates closely with its operations across Ireland, the UK and western Europe.

Poland now boasts a network of 30 support communities which revolve around 20 to 30 people, many living in rural or farming locations.

Barka leases a state farm in Poland which supports a larger community of 70 to 100 people.

Andrew – whose family are from Cork – said Barka would particularly appreciate donations of old or unwanted machinery from Irish farmers.

“The machinery might be of no use to someone here in Ireland but it would be of enormous help on our Polish farm,” he said.

The machinery is used on the community farms and Barka is particularly appealing for an old tractor of 150hp and over, an old combine harvester, a baler, a cultivating unit and a large plough.

Broken machinery can also be accepted as Barka’s team of volunteers has plenty of experience at repairing and recommissioning old equipment.

Mr Keogh said Barka’s Irish connections extend back much farther than 12 years.

During its early years in London, two women from Kilkenny who were living in Hackney offered accommodation for use as an office/temporary living space – a donation critical to helping Barka establish its UK operations.

One Barka success story involved Piotr, a Polish man who came to Ireland for work only to find himself living homeless on the streets of Dublin.

A Barka outreach worker made contact with Piotr in Dublin, got him involved in a support project and arranged for him to return to a support community in Poland.

Barka secured new travel documents for him, including a new passport, organised his transport home and provided support in preparing him for his return.

Piotr is now doing very well in his Polish support community.

In cases of alcohol or drug addiction, Barka can also arrange for a person to attend a residential treatment centre lasting up to 12 weeks.