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Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
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# Refugees
Govt to introduce 'refusal policy' for Ukrainian refugees in hotels offered other accommodation
Hotel contracts will be changed to bed-only accommodation for Ukrainians.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 28th 2022, 5:00 PM

GOVERNMENT IS TO introduce a refusal policy for Ukrainian refugees who are offered alternative accommodation but refuse to vacate their hotels.

This would mean that refugees staying in a hotel who are offered alternative accommodation would no longer have an entitlement to the hotel accommodation or subsequent housing offers.

“If they refuse an offer, they can’t stay in a hotel,” a source told The Journal, adding that the Government is obliged to provide shelter, not choices, when there are so many people arriving into the country.

“It’s about balance,” they said.

The Government held an incorporeal meeting today and signed off on hotel contract changes which will provide bed-only accommodation for Ukrainians. Around 20% of hotel rooms across the country are being used to accommodate Ukrainians.

Other measures include the doubling of the monthly payment for those housing Ukrainians to €800 from 1 December, although there are concerns that such a measure might not make a huge difference as a number of accommodation pledges have been revoked.

The greater use of army barracks and defence force buildings being used to house refugees was also given the green light, as well as the extension of modular house building. 

Dormitory style accommodation

The Government aims to maximise places “by allowing for dormitory style accommodation”, it states.

Today’s new measures indicate that there has now been shift in policy, with a Government statement saying this evening that the “current package of measures in place… was designed as a crisis response on a short-term emergency basis”.

“The Government today focused on how to continue the sustained support for those fleeing the war, including those already here, as well as those likely to be further displaced by the ongoing conflict,” it said, adding:

Government agreed that a move from an emergency response to a more mainstreamed approach is appropriate in light of the high numbers of people seeking asylum, the need to maximise all existing capacity, to bring greater consistency and to ensure equity for all those who rely on state supports. 

“This includes taking account of the level of income supports being provided by the State in addition to accommodation and access to a range of state services.

‘Accommodation only’ offers

“This will include moving to a more standard offer of ‘accommodation only’ with Beneficiaries of Temporary Protection utilising existing state income supports to pay for food and day-to-day expenses,” said the statement. 

The refurbishment programme and the rapid-build programme will be accelerated. 

“This will include ensuring all available properties, including those with dormitory style configuration, are utilised to avoid any person being turned away,” said the statement.

The Government has agreed to substantially increase the number of units to be delivered in 2023.  

A renewed call for pledged accommodation will also begin on 1 December, with a State-led Vacant Homes Call which will be led by local authorities “to ensure more rapid turnaround of the mobilisation of the offers from the public”.

Ongoing capacity issues likely 

The statement says the day-to-day challenge in sourcing a suitable accommodation for the volume of daily arrivals remains a challenge, with Government stating that it is likely there will be ongoing capacity issues. 

Separately, there are indications that a fresh look at future housing capacity, as indicated by both the Tánaiste and Taoiseach previously, may be needed “arising from the population changes arising from the Ukraine crisis”.

“This will be reviewed,” said the statement.

The new measures come as Government rallies to find additional housing after a number of refugees from Ukraine and other countries could not be accommodated last weekend due to the Citywest facility reaching capacity.

A facility at Dublin Airport has now been set up for new arrivals.

However, there are growing concerns in Government about the numbers of refugees arriving into the country this weekend and whether their needs can be met. 

Hotel accommodation concerns

The issue of hotel accomodation and freeing up more capacity is understood to be a key concern for the Government. 

Over the weekend, the Taoiseach said there is a need to free up capacity that is already in the system, stating that there is an issue with refugees that are currently staying in hotel accomodation not wanting to move on.

Martin told reporters “there was a reluctance, for example, for quite a number of whom are in hotels to move out into housing”.

“There’s been a constant challenge there, because, understandably, if people are in a hotel with a group, they find some comfort in that, and are more reluctant to move into a single house. And that’s been a feature. So these are issues that we have to deal with now, in terms of trying to create greater capacity within the accommodation that we’ve already secured,” said the Taoiseach.

Under the new contracts, as outlined above, meals will not be included.

While one source said “we will not see people go hungry”, there will be a concerted effort to urge those staying in hotels to accept other accommodation, such as pledged houses, that could be located in other areas of the country.  

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said yesterday that tourism in Ireland will be negatively impacted as the war in Ukraine – and the housing of tens of thousands of refugees in hotels – continues.

Varadkar said it is likely that the tourism sector next spring and summer will not be as good as hoped.

Speaking yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he believes the country can stretch more to take in more refugees.

Speaking in Cork this afternoon, the Taoiseach said there is a “very significant challenge”.

The number of people seeking international protections, separate from Ukrainians fleeing war, has increased dramatically this year, for a variety of reasons, said Martin.

“We’re doing further analysis on that,” he said, adding that prior to this year there would have been over 3,500, while now there is potentially 14,000 in this calendar year.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can in terms of securing accommodation… the Department of Housing is already is assisting in terms of the reconfiguration of existing buildings, either public buildings or some of the private sector,” he added. 

Parallel with that, the Taoiseach the Government will be developing more rapid build homes for housing more generally, as well as for dealing with issues in terms of of migration. 

He said significant challenges lie ahead “of that there’s no doubt”.

“We need more capacity, I believe we can create additional capacity, although it will remain very challenging,” said Martin.

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