Number of non-Ukrainians seeking refuge in Ireland almost triples, says UNHCR

Pause in intake of new arrivals into State resulted in refugees and asylum seekers having to stay at Dublin airport

The number of people from countries other than Ukraine seeking international protection is almost triple what it was in pre-pandemic times, the UN refugee agency has said.

On Wednesday, the Department of Children announced it had to pause the intake of new arrivals into existing State accommodation because it had run out of beds and space at Citywest.

As a result, new arrivals into the country in recent days who were seeking refuge from the war or seeking asylum were required to stay at Dublin Airport.

The Government said the situation had arisen due to a “significant surge” in arrivals in recent weeks has resulted in a “severe shortage” of available accommodation. Taoiseach Michael Martin said 70 per cent of those in Citywest are international protection applicants.


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There were 2,235 applications in the first six months of 2019, compared to 6,480 this year so far, according to statistics from the International Protection Office.

On Friday, Enda O’Neill, head of office at the UNHCR Ireland, said the State has been receiving about 380 to 400 international protection applications a week since May.

This is in addition to the Ukrainian refugees that are arriving into the country, which stands at almost 41,000 since February.

“For Ireland it is a significant increase ,” he said on RTE Radio’s Morning Ireland. “But it wouldn’t be in any way outside of the norms of what we have received in years gone by or in other European countries.”

Mr O’Neill denied that the UK’s proposed Rwanda policy — which seeks to deport refugees to Rwanda for processing — is a factor in the recent surge in applications. “We have to note that no transfers have taken place. I haven’t seen any strong evidence to suggest it’s a major factor.”

Mr O’Neill also denied that Ireland is full, or has reached its limit in terms of the number of refugees it can assist.

“It can be very challenging to put in place the appropriate arrangements to ensure that they’re provided with shelter and their basic needs are met. However, we have to have a bit of perspective I think,” he said.

“We can compare ourselves to a country like Czech Republic which is smaller than the island of Ireland and has a population of about 10.5 million. More than 350,000 refugees went in there in a short period of time immediately following the invasion.”

The Taoiseach and relevant ministers met on Thursday to discuss the shortage of accommodation after the Citywest facility in west Dublin reached full capacity.

On Thursday, more than 160 people were transferred out of the old Dublin airport terminal building to other accommodation.

One of those people is a 19-year-old woman from Kyiv who stayed in Dublin airport on Wednesday night, and who has now been relocated to the university dormitory in Limerick.

“A volunteer at the airport said that there is a place for us and suggested we go,” she said, adding that she is happy she has a safe and comfortable place to live.

Yaroslavna Serova and Natalia Marchenko spent Thursday night at Citywest hub, where they slept on chairs in the common hall.

“There are very few sleeping places for Ukrainians. It was difficult to have a rest under those conditions,” she added.

The Department of Children said 180 people stayed in the old terminal building on Thursday night due to a shortage of other appropriate accommodation.

“While it is far from ideal for arrivals to stay here, this has been used only as a temporary measure while the Government works to find alternative accommodation without delay,” a spokesman said.

Asked if people would continue to stay at the terminal over the weekend, he said the department is “working hard” to ensure the welfare of all those staying in the terminal, “while progressing work to secure suitable accommodation for them to minimise the time spent at the old terminal building”.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times