Sasko Lazarov
ukrainian refugees

Concern that tented accommodation options for Ukrainian refugees are running out ahead of winter

The number of Ukrainians arriving into Ireland has returned to high figures of between 700 and 800 per week.

THERE ARE GROWING concerns in government that tented and cabin accommodation options, as well site locations, for Ukrainians are running out as we head into winter.  

The number of Ukrainians arriving into Ireland has returned to high figures of between 700 and 800 per week recently.

If such high numbers continue throughout the winter and into the early part of next year, the accommodation capacity constraints Ireland will face will be very intense, it is believed.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe told The Journal that an announcement of changes to the Ukrainian support policy will be announced within weeks. 

Speaking in Brussels on the margins of the Euro Summit, where he was briefing European leaders on Eurogroup work, the minister said rather than worrying about the financial resources, his bigger concern right now is the “sustainability of what we can offer people who are coming to our country”. 

“The reality that we are confronted with then is what is the accommodation that we can provide to people who are coming to our country.

“And nobody in government wants to be in a position that what we are providing to people is not of a standard that we’re comfortable with and can’t stand over. And that is the issue the government now has to consider,” said Donohoe.

Senior sources agreed with Donohoe, telling The Journal last night that tents and heated cabins are currently being used to house refugees, acknowledging that it is far from ideal, but is the “best we can do right now”. 

Limited options going into winter

They added that there was a limit even to those options, confirming that there is a real concern in the short-term that if the number of arrivals remains at the current level, such accommodation options will become unavailable. 

Donohoe said the proposed reforms, which caused controversy at Cabinet this week, have already been discussed at many different levels within government. He said a final call on the options will “happen soon”. 

With the Taoiseach and a number of minister travelling to South Korea on Tuesday, the decision will be pushed out by a week or so, it is understood.

The Taoiseach confirmed yesterday that one consideration is bringing social welfare supports on offer to Ukrainian refugees in line with what other European countries offer.

He said Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys is reviewing the social welfare supports currently on offer to Ukrainians to see what modifications can be achieved.

Varadkar said it “makes sense that we align what we offer in Ireland to what other Western European countries are offering because of the issue of secondary movements”.

“Other countries have lower rates and other countries limit the time for which they offer any social welfare support,” he said, adding that a whole re-packaging of supports is due to be announced. 

When asked if there will be a tightening up of the social welfare supports and accommodation offers, Donohoe said the government has not made a decision on that.

“It is a complex matter,” he said, adding that the Irish people have shown a remarkable ability to support nearly 100,000 people that have come to Ireland in the last two years.

“We just need to consider how we can continue to do this in the future and do so in a way that is sustainable. The government hasn’t made the decision on the matter. We’re aware of the many consequences of any decision that we make. And I’d expect that in the next few weeks, the matter will be considered again,” he added. 

Tough decisions ahead

It’s been acknowledged that tough decisions are coming down the line for ministers, who will ultimately have to make a call on whether to introduce significant changes to Ukrainian supports or be up front with the public about the possible creaking of public services that could be experienced in the months ahead, with constraints felt in areas such as housing and school places.

Given what happened this time last year in Ukraine, when attacks were made on energy infrastructure, there are concerns that it could well be a factor in the movement of refugees to Ireland in the last few weeks, with people leaving Ukraine before there is a repeat.