Martin: The housing of Ukrainians in Ireland is not a story of failure

Martin: The housing of Ukrainians in Ireland is not a story of failure

The Taoiseach defended Ireland’s response to welcoming refugees arriving here from Ukraine, after Tánaiste Leo Varadkar earlier stated that accommodation for refugees arriving in the coming weeks cannot be guaranteed.

Speaking to the Dáil, Micheál Martin said that there has been an extraordinary response in Ireland to Vladimir Putin’s immoral and illegal war and that the country has welcomed one of the highest levels of refugees per capita in Europe.

Martin said that more than 55,000 Ukrainians have found refuge here and that it is not a story of failure and it is not a government that has “cobbling a plan”.

He was responding to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, who said there has been a social catastrophe facing the country over housing coupled with a lack of accommodation for those who have arrived from Ukraine in recent days.

She told the Dáil that the government was rushing to devise a plan to provide housing for those fleeing war.

The government’s only plan was to cross its fingers and hope for the best, she said.

Martin claimed that Sinn Féin was trying to interpret this issue as “crude domestic politics” and that he did not accept Ms. McDonald’s analysis and that it showed what Putin himself wanted.

Ms McDonald said the housing system was “broken beyond recognition” and that “everybody loses” as a result, reports RTE.

“The facts are, the people arrived from Ukraine…and there was nowhere for them to go…I think we can all agree that is not an acceptable situation,” reports RTE.

This is a meeting of senior government officials who noted last night that most contracts with hotels hosting Ukrainian refugees will expire in December and future deals are not expected to cover the cost of food.

It is understood that up to 100 seats could quickly become available in an army barracks in the east of the country.

Land around at least four other shacks across the country could be used for modular or prefabricated housing under plans under government scrutiny.

This would not affect the operation of these barracks, the OPW was told.

The dormitories will be used in the refurbished municipal buildings to make these properties quickly available for around 4,000 people.

An overnight accommodation facility for refugees and applicants for international protection was also confirmed, which was supposed to open last night on the Dublin Airport campus has in fact gone live.

A spokesman for the Department of Childhood, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has indicated that some 49 people are housed in the building.

Twelve refugees who spent several nights sleeping on the floor and in chairs at Dublin Airport were moved to alternative accommodation.

In total, 78 refugees in Ireland have been turned away without state-provided accommodation in recent days, including 44 Ukrainian refugees and 34 international protection applicants.

In previously unpublished figures, the department confirmed that nine international protection applicants were turned away homeless on Friday and 25 yesterday.

However, all are now being offered housing and efforts are being made to contact all 78 people.

The 44 Ukrainian refugees are staying at a sports hall in Dublin 7, including a group that slept at Dublin airport over the weekend.

Sergey Chudaev said that they had received shelter, access to toilets and regular hot meals and were very grateful to those who helped and supported them.

“The conditions are as comfortable as possible, especially after spending the nights at the airport,” Chudaev said, reports RTE.

Three others who were told there was no state-provided accommodation available for them on Friday and had slept at Dublin airport for two nights were given private accommodation on Sunday.

A department spokesman said concerns remain about finding accommodation for new arrivals in an acute shortage of available beds.

Justice Secretary Helen McEntee said the government “hit blips in the road” as it continues to care for refugees arriving in Ireland.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Drivetime, McEntee said: “More is going to have to be done, but it’s not going to be easy and we have to be honest with people, we are going to hit blips in the road, like we did at the weekend,” reported RTE.

She said the government “cannot turn on a tap overnight” as it went from housing an average of 3,000 international protection applicants per year to more than 75,000 since March.

Ms. McEntee added that she hopes more Ukrainians will come to Ireland during the winter months.

“We have to be really honest, this situation is not going to get any better. We can see what Vladimir Putin is doing. He is literally destroying towns and villages, cutting off their energy to fuel supply,” she said, reported RTE.

Labor Party leader Ivana Bacik said it was a “grave concern” to see refugees sleeping on the ground at Dublin airport.

Speaking to the Dáil, she said it was “disappointing” that there was no commitment at the beginning of the summer to ensure there was long-term planning, and that this was needed now.

She called for a whole-of-government approach to tackling the issue, saying both the opposition and the government must engage in a collective effort and not on “political points.”

“Putin is weaponising refugee flows and we can’t let him win,” she said, reports RTE.

In response, Martin said disused buildings like Baggot Street Hospital were developed to provide housing, but that would take time.

He said reconfiguring buildings and former army barracks to increase capacity will take time, but the introduction of rapid housing will need to be present now and in the future at a much higher level.

The Irish Red Cross estimates that there are between 1,500 and 2,000 housing commitments that have not yet led to placements, but that many of these were in rural areas that have proven more difficult to accommodate families, women and children.

Irish Red Cross general secretary Liam O’Dwyer told RTÉ’s News at One that on average three accommodation pledges were made per day, but in the last week that number has risen to eight or nine per day.

He said the process of matching refugees with adequate housing “needs to be resourced.”

According to RTE, Mr O’Dwyer said: “The Government has informed us that nearly 8,000 refugees are now living in pledged accommodation and that’s broken down by roughly 4,900 at this stage in pledged accommodation through local authorities and ourselves. And then further, just over 3,000 or 3,500 are with ad hoc arrangements where people have offered (accommodation) over Facebook or through personal contacts and have taken people in. We have been saying all along, particularly for local authorities who are doing a very significant amount of the placement, that you need specific staff for that.”

Speaking before a cabinet meeting this morning, Varadkar said Ireland is experiencing “a severe accommodation shortage” and “there is no point in denying it”.

And as a country, we’re not in any way going to resile from our international obligations or resile from European solidarity, but we do need to say to people that if you come here, we can’t guarantee you accommodation at the moment and indeed for the next couple of weeks, we can’t yet guarantee it. I think Ireland has done very well as a society. I don’t mean as a Government; I mean as a society, in responding to the Ukraine refugee crisis.” Mr Varadkar said, reported RTE.

RTÉ News learns that the government is working on a proposal to increase the pay for those who take in Ukrainian families from €400 a month to €800.

This move follows discussions by the three ruling party leaders and top ministers last night.

It is likely that this increase in fees will also be paid to those who supplied empty houses to Ukrainians.

There will also be a renewed call for people to pledge accommodation for those seeking refuge in Ireland, under the supervision of local authorities.

The matter is expected to go to Cabinet next week.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach said that Ireland has a legal and moral obligation to welcome people arriving in Ireland from Ukraine.

Micheál Martin said that the EU countries were all involved together and one country cannot give up.

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