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A doorway in Dublin city centre painted blue and yellow in support of Ukraine. Alamy Stock Photo
ukrainian refugees

Communities that take in Ukrainian refugees could get multimillion-euro funding

Leo Varadkar said he wanted a community fund for areas to improve schools, public transport, community and sporting facilities.

COMMUNITIES THAT WELCOME in many refugees from Ukraine could receive a multimillion-euro fund to improve public facilities under plans supported by the Tánaiste.

Leo Varadkar told the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting this evening that he wanted to see a community fund for areas to improve schools, public transport, community and sporting facilities.

He said the state will not turn any refugees away but stressed that the welfare and accommodation support will remain a “real constraint”.

He told the meeting that housing needed to be built rapidly on suitable sites.

Disused army barracks and modular homes are among the measures being considered by the Government to help plug the accommodation crisis for refugees.

Fine Gael TDs also supported the use of rapid-build housing.

Varadkar said the numbers of Ukrainian refugees arriving in Ireland are at unprecedented levels.

Ireland has taken in around 55,000 Ukrainians, with approximately 12,000 in schools, 10,000 working and paying taxes, and 1,000 in third level and higher education.

Earlier, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said old army sites could be quickly converted to house Ukrainians as the state struggles with the number of people seeking refuge.

Humphreys defended the Government’s handling of the crisis, saying it is doing everything it can.

Some refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine have been forced to sleep on the floor at Dublin Airport as state accommodation reaches capacity.

The Government is scrambling to find rooms and accommodation to help address the shortage.

Humphreys said Ireland has welcomed refugees with its “arms open”.

“We have supported a lot of Ukrainians coming into this country and when you put it into perspective, we have almost 55,000 Ukrainians here and that is the total population of Co Monaghan,” the Fine Gael minister added.

“So we have done a lot. I want to acknowledge the work that people have done in terms of taking them into their houses, and indeed the work that Minister (Roderic) O’Gorman’s department has done in identifying accommodation for them and, yes, we are under pressure at the minute but we’re working through a number.

“We did have a Cabinet meeting on Monday and there’s a number of proposals being brought forward, such as increasing the amount of support that we give to families who take Ukrainians into their homes.

“We’re looking at identifying other possible opportunities in terms of maybe old disused army barracks that could be quickly converted, we’re looking at modular homes, so we’re doing everything we can.

“I think it’s important to say that this is something that it shouldn’t be an us and them.”

She said Irish people have historically gone abroad to seek refuge, employment and a new life.

“In this country we have held our arms open, we have brought people in here and we need to support them and we should never forget where they’re coming from,” she added.

“The horrific circumstances that they find themselves in, and they have lost loved ones. Many of them are women and children that are here, they don’t know where their husbands are. They’re fighting in the war effort and I think we need to be conscious of that.

“There are pressures, certainly – we are doing everything we can as a Government to try and alleviate those areas where there is pressure.”

The Government also has plans to encourage more people to host families or individuals fleeing Ukraine.

The minister repeated comments by Varadkar that the state cannot guarantee accommodation to those arriving in Ireland after senior government ministers met on Monday night to discuss the accommodation crisis.

Proposals included increasing the monthly payment for people taking in Ukrainian refugees to €800.

Measures are set to be agreed at a meeting later this week or at Cabinet next week.

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