Ukraine War

Increase to €400 payment for housing Ukrainians 'on the table' as leaders set to meet Monday

33 Ukrainian refugees were unable to be accommodated last night, with some returning to the airport.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 22nd 2022, 8:13 PM

COALITION LEADERS WILL meet on Monday to discuss the accommodation shortage for housing refugees in Ireland, with the Taoiseach stating this evening that increasing the €400 monthly payment given to households who are accommodating Ukrainians is “on the table”. 

Ukrainian refugees that arrived in Ireland were unable to be accommodated by the state last night. 

Speaking today on RTÉ’s Saturday with Katie Hannon, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Martin Heydon said that it was his understanding that 33 male Ukrainian refugees were “not able to be accommodated last night”.

“That’s a really disappointing place for us to be in, we don’t want to be in that space,” he said.

It comes after Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman was unable to confirm yesterday that refugees would not be forced to sleep on the streets due to the lack of accommodation. This statement came after the Citywest facility was closed to new arrivals on Thursday, due to a lack of capacity.

Speaking to reporters at Fianna Fáil’s president’s dinner in Dublin this evening, the Taoiseach defended the Government’s response.

When asked what happened to the 33 that could not be housed last night, the Taoiseach said his understanding is they were processed in the Capuchin Day Centre near the city centre, but some chose to return to the airport. 

He rejected suggestions that the numbers arriving into the country were predicted several months ago, stating that the war had intensified and made the situation more difficult.

“The state has been remarkably fast, I would argue, in terms of responding to a wartime situation the worst humanitarian crisis in in Europe since the Second World War.

“I mean, we’ve witnessed the displacement of well over six million people,” he said – adding that Ireland had responded “in an extraordinary way, an unprecedented way in terms of the sheer numbers we’ve already accommodated – up to 55,000 Ukrainians have come into the country.

“We never before ever had to accommodate so many people in such a short space of time, as we have done now and it’s because we’re in a war-time situation there is no other explanation for it,” he said.

He said the crisis is “Europe-wide” and other countries are experiencing similar situations.

“We certainly will do everything we can to speed things up and get more accommodation into play,” he added.

He said for a period numbers arriving to Ireland stabilised, but there has been an intensification in recent weeks. 

The State will now have to move “faster to see what we can done to accommodate the increasing numbers”. 

€400 payment increase ‘on the table’

On Monday, the three coalition leaders will meet to discuss the urgent response needed, including increasing the €400 payment to households that take in Ukrainian refugees.

Departments will come forward with a “range of measures”, including the payment increase, he told The Journal.

“That’s something that’s on the table though,” the Taoiseach said, adding: “I don’t have a specific amount now”. 

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.

Airport facilities 

Speaking today on radio about the facilities at the airport, Minister Heydon said that as of Monday, Dublin Airport would have overnight facilities in place for people arriving, and that the government can’t guarantee new arrivals a bed.

“This is about us being honest and straight up with people as well who are outside the country at present thinking and deciding where to go,” he said.

We can’t guarantee everyone who comes here a bed right now because of the situation we are in.

Minister Heydon was echoing statements made yesterday by Minister O’Gorman, who said that the Government was currently “not in a position to guarantee everyone an offer of accommodation”.

“What we will do is prioritise vulnerable people, we’ll prioritise women and children in terms of the provision of accommodation and for those who we are not able to offer accommodation to we will work with NGOs to provide some services to them,” O’Gorman said.

“That’s why we’re speaking very clearly today and engaging with the Ukrainian embassy in terms of letting people know that there is a major constraint on capacity, particularly next week. It’s not that we have no accommodation available, but we don’t have enough accommodation available.”

With reporting from Christina Finn and Tadhg McNally

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