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File image of Minister Roderic O'Gorman. Sasko Lazarov

Minister O'Gorman says he can't rule out future use of tents to house refugees in Ireland

Roderic O’Gorman said it was ‘difficult’ to project how many more refugees would arrive in Ireland by the end of the year.

MINISTER FOR INTEGRATION Roderic O’Gorman has said he cannot rule out the use of tented accommodation in the future as the government faces pressure ahead of the autumn period.

Refugees being housed in tents at the site of music festival Electric Picnic – which hosted 70,000 revellers at the Stradbally site in Co Laois at the weekend – are among the 500 people seeking international protection from Ireland who are being placed in such accommodation.

The Government had also asked the National Ploughing Championships to accommodate people after its event at the end of September, but organisers said it had no camping area and the Ratheniska land would be needed for farming.

O’Gorman said the government was always going to face a “pinch point” at this time of year, but there has also been an increase over the summer in the number of Ukrainian nationals arriving in Ireland.

The Green Party TD also said that almost 3,000 refugees had been moved out of student accommodation ahead of the academic year, but that most hotel contracts are rolling over.

He said it was “difficult” to project how many more refugees would arrive by the end of the year.

Speaking to reporters today, O’Gorman said: “I can’t rule out further use of the tented accommodation, but I think it’s important to remember in the context of accommodating 70,000 people, we’ll at maximum be accommodating 750 in tents.”

He added: “The state is accommodating 70,000 Ukrainians, and right now about 200 are in tented accommodation. That will grow over the next six weeks to about 750 but that’s 750 out of 70,000.

“In the context of international protection accommodation, we’re accommodating about 23,000 persons and again, it’s about 300 in tented accommodation.

“So it is a small proportion of our overall offering, but when the system is under pressure like that all options have to be used.”

As of June, 84,613 people have fled to Ireland after the Russian invasion of Ukraine which began in February last year, with around 69,885 being housed by the Irish state.

The State is also housing 23,195 asylum seekers who have arrived in Ireland, which is an increase beyond the 3,000 to 5,000 arrivals per year expected.

O’Gorman said he would be bringing forward proposals to Cabinet in the coming weeks in relation to international protection accommodation, including a revised version of the White Paper on Ending Direct Provision.

“As I indicated over the summer, we were always going to face a pinch point coming into August and September,” O’Gorman said while speaking at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin.

“The primary reason for that was over the summer we were using student accommodation, that was hugely beneficial, hugely useful to us to meet immediate needs of the people arriving in the country.

“However, over the summer we’ve also seen an increase in the number of Ukrainians arriving here.

“We’re seeing about maybe 500 a week arriving and needing accommodation.

“So I suppose the confluence of that did put us under pressure in late August and early September. Across the last four weeks, my department has moved 2,800 people out of student accommodation and into more long-term accommodation.

“So I suppose that’s the context in which we’re using Stradbally. We’re using the tented accommodation there, accommodation for about 750 people. It’s going to help us when we get through the next number of weeks.

“I do have to flag though, and we’ve been very clear with the Ukrainian embassy on this, there is real pressure on the system right now.

“We, as you know, we’re accommodating 70,000 Ukrainians across the country, this is something that’s never been done at scale, this has never been done in our history before.

“But we are under pressure now and we are being as upfront with Ukrainians as possible in terms of the pressure and the difficulty in securing large amounts of additional accommodation.”

He added: “By and large, our hotel contracts are renewing reasonably well, and we do lose some and sometimes we have to move away from certain contractors where they haven’t met all the conditions.

“And in those circumstances … Ukrainians have to be moved but, by and large, our existing contracts are rolling over.”

Press Association