Concern over fire-safety dangers in housing for Ukrainians

Inspection reports found Ukrainians placed in accommodation with ‘totally inadequate’ facilities

Ukrainian refugees were housed by the State in accommodation that did not meet fire-safety standards and in some cases in housing with “totally inadequate” facilities, according to internal inspection reports commissioned by the Department of Equality.

In a number of cases, Ukrainians fleeing the war with Russia were placed into accommodation with a host of fire-safety shortcomings, which department officials were warned earlier this year needed “immediate” works to address.

Inspections found one property had “totally inadequate” cooking facilities, nowhere for residents to eat or for children to play, according to reports obtained by The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act.

The inspection found three elderly women had to sleep in a reception area in the building, without access to their own bathroom.


The report raised a number of fire-safety concerns with the building, stating “immediate action and upgrade works” were required for it to continue to be used to house Ukrainian refugees.

The inspectors said the accommodation was “not suitable for children or persons with mobility issues” and recommended the number of residents should be reduced in some rooms.

The fire alarm system in the property was not working correctly and several light fittings in one room posed “an electrical safety hazard and fire risk”, the report said.

‘Problematic’ bathrooms

There was “inadequate” living space for residents, with no area for people to eat outside of their bedrooms, and nowhere for children to do their homework or play outside.

In one room, a mother with two young children had to ask other residents to use their bathrooms, which inspectors said was “problematic” during the night.

Cooking facilities in the accommodation were “totally inadequate”, with just one cooker which only had three working hobs, the report said. A back door and ground floor windows could not be locked at night, which the inspection said gave rise to a “security and safety concern”.

Residents had nowhere to store clothes or belongings in their rooms, apart from on the floor or on their beds, it said.

There are currently more than 36,000 Ukrainians in accommodation provided or leased by the State, which includes hotels and B&Bs, as well as large converted buildings and community halls.

In 19 instances, the department had cancelled or refused to renew contracts with accommodation providers, often due to concerns over standards or the treatment of refugees.

An inspection of another property used to house Ukrainians said considerable work needed to be carried out to bring the accommodation “up to fire safety standards”, with inspectors reporting several “areas of concern”.

Inspectors said emergency fire escape doors needed to be installed in parts of the building, as well as fire doors on all corridors.

Poor standards

Another property needed a range of fire-safety works to be undertaken “without delay”, inspectors warned. This included fireproofing of stairwells, updating the alarm system, and undertaking a full review of the building’s fire resistance rating.

In some cases the accommodation inspected was so poor inspectors recommended against placing refugees into the housing, due to fire-safety risks.

The inspections were carried out between March and June this year by a contractor commissioned by the department.

The department initially refused to release copies of the reports under the FoI Act, however that decision was overturned on appeal. The location of the properties were redacted as officials stated the information was commercially sensitive.

A department spokesman said that where reports raised issues, “follow-up inspections have been completed to ensure any issues identified are addressed”.

“We will continue to seek inspections to be completed in order to address any concerns which may arise,” he said.

John Lannon, chief executive of migrant support organisation Doras, said there was a “lack of adequate standards” for housing used to accommodate Ukrainian refugees. Mr Lannon said he had recently reported concerns to the department about accommodation where large parts of the facility was “still a building site”.

Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman has said his department will need a supplementary budget of more than €850 million to pay for the rising cost of housing Ukrainian refugees.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times