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Tented accommodation in Gormanstown. GIS

Tourist season set to take 1,300 beds from system housing refugees

Pod-style modular homes which will be delivered in a shorter time frame, but may not last as long, are being considered.

LARGE HOTELIERS ENDING refugee accommodation contracts with the State will result in the loss of 1,300 beds between now and the end of May 2023, Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman has said. 

The ramping up of the tourist season and an increase in international protection applicants arriving in Ireland means the system is to face additional pressures.

The system is also experiencing an accommodation shortfall for current residents, O’Gorman said in response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin’s Imelda Munster and People Before Profit’s Bríd Smith. 

Large hotel contracts ending 

The housing of international protection refugees is reliant on hotels for much of its accommodation capacity, but the minister said a number of large hotels have informed the Government that they are ending their contracts either in full or partially.

The minister said the wait time before an offer of accommodation can be made is also lengthening because of the competing need to accommodate those losing accommodation in the hotels which are ending their contracts in March and April.

The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) has already re-accommodated 1,200 of the 1,400 people affected by hotel closures but, despite best efforts, it has been unable to source accommodation for the remaining 209 people affected, the minister said. 

Over 800 accommodation contracts have been put in place with over 44,735 beds in hotels, hostels, commercial self-catering accommodation and certain emergency or repurposed settings, including sports facilities, tented accommodation, and office buildings.

O’Gorman said that although families are being prioritised for accommodation, some families, as well as single persons, may be affected by the closures of hotel contracts.

Intensive efforts are underway by department officials to source emergency accommodation. 

While the minister said 2,000 bed spaces having been procured for use since 1 January 2023, it is not sufficient to meet the demand.

In addition, almost 2,000 people have had to be re-accommodated where hotel and short term emergency locations have ended in 2023.

CityWest Transit Hub, which has been used for emergency accommodation, remains paused for new refugees entering the country.

“The situation in Citywest remains under constant review,” O’Gorman said. 

As of 26 March, 2,475 persons requested IPAS accommodation so far in 2023.

As of the same date, there are over 20,200 people accommodated by IPAS compared to 10,000 at this time last year.

While additional accommodation has been procured this year, “this is not sufficient to meet demand, particularly in relation to accommodation for single males”, the minister said. 

As of 28 March, 425 single males have not been accommodated.

IPAS offers accommodation in sequence to those not originally accommodated on a strict chronological basis. 322 people who were previously not offered accommodation have subsequently been offered it.

All of the emergency accommodation under the IPAS system is currently in use, but the department is in ongoing negotiations with providers to bring on more capacity. 

Ukrainian refugees

However, it is not just international protection applicants that will be impacted by the closing out of hotel contracts.

On the Ukrainian response, the department is also in ongoing negotiations with a significant number of hotels who have previously been accommodating refugees from Ukraine on a full board basis.

O’Gorman said a questionnaire to providers seeking their intentions as to plans for renewal of contracts or otherwise was circulated. 

“Initial indications are positive but negotiations are ongoing and a number of providers have yet to confirm their intentions,” he said. 

Pod-style modular homes 

It is understood that 700 modular homes are to come on stream shortly to provide 2,800 places. 

The Government is now looking at quicker build modular homes, similar to pod-style homes, which will be delivered in a shorter time frame, but may not last as long. 

There had been criticisms levelled at the Government for the delay in processing payments to hotels offering accommodation to refugees under State contracts. 

The minister acknowledged there had been a backlog in payments, but said additional staff have been brought on stream to speed matters up. 

The total value of all payments made to 20 March this year is €202 million.

The number of payments made between February and March of this year has doubled, said the minister. 

“On average, our payments and finance team is now processing approximately €30 million worth of payments every week. This has risen, but it will rise further because we have brought additional staff on board.

“We are also looking at outsourcing and automating a number of processes as well that, up to this point, have been done on a personal basis,” said O’Gorman. 

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