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The Palayanytsya Ukrainian Chairity Centre in Dublin city centre. Leah Farrell via
refugee crisis

Govt plans to double payment for Ukrainian hosts to €800 in response to accommodation crisis

A temporary facility is opening at Dublin Airport today.

LAST UPDATE | 24 Oct 2022

CABINET SUB-COMMITTEE MEMBERS met this evening in a bid to try to solve the accommodation problem facing Ukrainian refugees, and are planning on doubling the €‎400 payment to people hosting Ukrainian families.

It’s understood that Cabinet are working on a proposal to increase the payment to €800 in light of the accommodation shortage.

Speaking to reporters in Cavan today, the Taoiseach said the Government can do better in securing additional emergency accommodation for Ukrainians. 

Micheál Martin also said there have been proposals around the reconfiguration of properties that could potentially provide accommodation for a significant number of people.

Asked if Ireland would rule out capping or ending the taking in of Ukrainians, the Taoiseach said that there was no question of that happening.

It emerged over the weekend that newly arriving refugees stayed in Dublin Airport as there was no suitable accommodation for them. 

A new temporary facility is being opened at the airport today to house those left without accommodation.

In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson for The Department of Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth said it is intended that the facility will come into effect from this evening.

“All passengers that can be transported to Citywest in time for same day processing by Department of Justice and Department of Social Protections will be transported directly to Citywest,” the spokesperson said.

“Others will be diverted to a building on the DAA campus, located a distance from the terminal, to stay overnight before onward travel to Citywest the next morning.

“Those staying in the designated airport building will be given food, warmth, security and a place to rest overnight. The capacity is to be determined. DCEDIY would like to place on record its thanks to DAA for its assistance on this matter.”

The department had previously said that there were a total of 43 men who could not be housed over the weekend. 

This revelation was met with frustration from the Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland, Larysa Geranko. 

She said that as far as she knew, the government was “working on a plan”, but that the situation was “not acceptable”.

“It’s unacceptable for us because, of course we are worrying about our people,” she said.

“And they bought tickets, they arrived in Ireland, so might be better to announce the lack of or absence of their accommodation in advance.”

Ahead of today’s Cabinet subcommittee meeting, the Taoiseach said the country has never had to deal with so many people fleeing war in its history.

“The numbers that have arrived in such a very short space of time have been unprecedented.

“We are looking at 58,000 Ukrainians have come into the country now. Well over the mid-40s getting accommodated by the state. Others finding accommodation. We now have 15,000 in direct provision.

“This is not a normal domestic policy where you can say we’ll do X, Y and Z in a planned way. This is very much a consequence of war,” he said.

He said the state will have to “double down” and do better again in terms accommodating those that are fleeing Ukraine.

“It is very difficult for Ukrainians, it is very difficult for people generally. It is not just an Irish phenomenon, it is a phenomenon across Europe. Other countries and cities are facing similar situations,” he said.

Martin acknowledged that the system to cater for refugees could be better.

A range of measures are being considered by the Cabinet subcommittee this evening, including increasing the €400 payment to households that take in refugees from Ukraine. 

It is understood there will also be a discussion about utilising vacant property and holiday homes, as well as measures to incentivise refugees to leave hotel accommodation, such as ending free meals. 

Currently the state is paying for one in four hotel rooms around the country.

The Taoiseach said on Saturday evening that there is a need to free up capacity that is already in the system, such as hotels, 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.

Speaking today, the Taoiseach said there had been proposals around reconfigurating a whole range of properties that had been identified already, “which if brought to realisation quickly could provide very significant numbers of places”.

Back in May, when Ireland began to prepare for the arrivals of refugees from Ukraine, the Government asked local authorities to draw up a list of vacant properties that could be used to house refugees.

It is understood that on the initial list, around 500 properties were identified. The Journal sought the list from the Department of Housing but the request was refused.

The department, in their refusal of the Freedom of Information request in June, said releasing the information would be contrary to the public interest as the information contained was not yet fully developed “and may cause undue concern among those arrivals and the communities in proximity to where these identified vacant buildings are located”.

The department said the list “would impair the entire deliberative process to a significant or substantial degree”.

The statement went on to say: “It is essential that this deliberate process is protected from undue intrusion”.

The Department added there is a need to “preserve confidentiality having regard to the subject matter” and that releasing the list of properties could “impair future decisions”

Martin also said today there is a legal and moral obligation on Ireland to take in refugees.

“This is part of a European-wide protection collective,” he said.

“I believe the moral one is the strong one, but it is also a legal one and we are working with other European member states.

“We are all in this together across Europe. There is not the facility for one country to opt out. That challenges ourselves to be part of that European solidarity,” he said.

The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth have said that there are currently over 58,000 people (42,000 Ukrainian, 16,000 International Protection) being accommodated in Ireland.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said that two months ago, there were approximately 750 Ukrainian refugees arriving into Ireland a week but this has rapidly increased to around 1,500 a week, alongside 400 people from other countries seeking international protection.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Emma Lane Spollen of the Ukraine Civil Society Forum (an umbrella group consisting of groups such as the Red Cross and the Immigrant Council of Ireland) said that the current system for taking in refugees is “totally reliant on the hospitality sector”.

Spollen said there was some frustration that the Government had not planned ahead for this issue despite being warned of high numbers of refugees arriving. 

“I think that’s why there’s some frustration that some of the decisions that should have been made on investment decisions weren’t made six months ago. The numbers that were being projected were 100,000 and 200,000.

“We’re not anywhere near that but yet we haven’t done any planning or any contingency work for that type of number so that’s why the meeting today is so important because we need the Taoiseach to be making decisions now that will create accommodation coming on stream in six months time.”

Speaking to reporters in Belfast today, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said the emergency accommodation crisis is a “huge failure” of government policy.

McDonald said there has been a failure to plan and a failure to provide adequate accommodation.

“It is quite disgraceful that it has come to this,” she added.

“I mean, the Government knew, and in fact predicted that we would have far greater numbers of Ukrainians seeking refuge in Ireland, and yet they have failed comprehensively to prepare and to provide for those people.

“And just remember, this is part and parcel of a wider failure to provide housing and accommodation for the wider population.”

With additional reporting by Christina Finn

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