Tent camp, warehouses, arenas and Citywest hotel could accommodate refugees by Easter
THE TENT VILLAGE in Gormanstown and accommodation at the Citywest Hotel and Millstreet Arena in Cork are expected to be fully utilized by refugees by Easter.
Warehouses and other vacant properties could also be used to house people arriving here from Ukraine in the coming days.
There will also be a nationwide ‘call for buildings’ to identify empty units for emergency accommodation and potentially long-term permanent accommodation.
The Defense Forces began constructing a large tent city for Ukrainian refugees at the Gormanstown camp late last month, but it was hoped it would only be used as a last resort.
A Defense Force spokesman said at the time that the tents would only be used in a scenario where hotels and other facility space were exhausted.
The government is also working to reach an agreement with the Citywest facility, similar to the one it had at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told his parliamentary party meeting last night that he expects the 750-room Citywest Hotel in Dublin to be in use by Easter.
With almost 4,000 rooms and 9,800 serviced accommodation beds already used to house Ukrainians, there are concerns about capacity during the summer months when hotel rooms are already pre-booked.
The Millstreet Arena in Cork, which will seat more than 400 people, is due to be used from April 18.
There are growing concerns about the lack of accommodation, as an average of 650 refugees arrive in Ireland each day.
By Easter weekend, the expected number of arrivals in Ireland is between 26,000 and 32,000. Beyond that, it is difficult to predict the total number of arrivals, a government spokesman said.
The Cabinet was informed this week that the main challenge remains the constraint on the supply of suitable accommodation for people arriving here.
Ministers have been advised that there is a risk to current capacity in the short term, including emergency accommodation.
It is understood that the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is urgently developing detailed proposals to help meet the anticipated needs that will arise over the medium to long term, including a delivery structure and delivery options. accommodation.
Government sources said there were forecasts that the average number of arrivals could drop in the coming days, but they said they needed to plan for the average number they are currently seeing.
To date, a total of 20,719 accommodation offers have been pledged by members of the public.
Despite the high level of pledges, the government believes that some properties are unlikely to be usable, and expects only 40-50% of pledged homes to be used.
Promises fall apart
Government sources also indicated that while the commitments are still being carried out, many commitments are failing.
Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick said in the Dáil yesterday that people who have opened their homes to Ukrainian refugees feel “isolated without support”.
During Leaders’ Questions, he told Taoiseach Micheál Martin that members of his constituency were struggling to pay their bills without any government support.
“They said they had absolutely no regrets about opening their homes to Ukrainian refugees, but they found it difficult and financially difficult.
“They have increased their energy and food bills, and on top of that there are massive increases in energy prices, but when they seek support and help from the Department, they feel it there isn’t,” he said.
Fitzpatrick suggested that it is unfair that those hosting refugees do not receive support “while hotels and bed and breakfasts receive full support to accommodate refugees”.
“Taoiseach, I ask you today to help resolve this issue and provide appropriate support to the thousands of Irish people and families who have opened their homes to refugees from Ukraine,” he said.
In response, Taoiseach Micheál Martin paid tribute to those who volunteered to help Ukrainian refugees settle in that country.
“The initial focus of our responses was, first of all, on accommodation,” he said.
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“It’s something we never thought we would experience, and therefore we focused in the initial phase of this, on getting accommodation. We still have a lot to do there, we are under pressure in terms of accommodation but we have to keep all the promises, we have important work in progress,” he said.
Martin said the government was working to acquire more accommodation for the refugees, including in private and public properties, religious properties and local authority facilities.
“All of that is being worked on as we speak and that has to be where the energies are going right now. Likewise, there is income support immediately in terms of social protection, once refugees enter the country,” he said.
He also said the government was setting up community response forums in each local authority to coordinate responses to the Ukraine crisis.
“This forum will bring together all public, community and broader organizations acting locally, as well as the mayor of each local authority. These local forms are best placed to put in place arrangements for newcomers from Ukraine to access services. We think these forums are an important part of what you have expressed in terms of the need to provide support on the ground,” he said.
Commenting on the government’s progress report on housing for all released today, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said the government was responding appropriately and compassionately to the war in Ukraine.
“We continue to witness the results of the barbaric Russian invasion and we are intervening to protect those fleeing their homes and provide them with shelter. At the same time, the government will protect Housing for All and its current pace of delivery to the greatest extent possible. Housing for all provides stability in this time of great uncertainty,” he said.
The Taoiseach said: “We recognize that the wider implications of the conflict in Ukraine will present challenges and the government is closely and actively following the challenges facing the construction sector and the housing market. We must now redouble our efforts to provide housing for all at scale and pace, increasing the supply of housing across all tenures and ensuring a sustainable housing system for the future.
While accommodation capacity is the primary concern, so is the number of people arriving at entry points into the country.
Dublin Airport is still the main point of entry and continues to receive high numbers of refugees, with plans being finalized to move the reception center from the airport to the Citywest complex.
It is understood that instead of being processed at the airport, those arriving in Ireland will be bussed to Citywest for processing. Additional resources are also being deployed at Rosslare Port in Wexford.