Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman has admitted that some international protection applicants could end up sleeping on the streets as the Citywest processing centre is at capacity.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Mr O’Gorman said he “could not rule out” that some people would end up sleeping on the street.
Women and children will be prioritised for accommodation in Citywest, and his department will work with NGOs about supporting other arrivals.
The Department of Children and Equality had initially announced on Thursday that arrivals to Citywest would be paused. However, a source said arrivals overnight on Thursday would continue to go to Citywest and that any use of the airport to accommodate refugees would not commence this week.
An overnight facility at Dublin airport is also being used, rather than transferring late night arrivals to City West, he said.
Tented accommodation at Gormanston is no longer available, but 300 people remain in “high quality tents” around the country.
Mr O’Gorman said the Ukrainian embassy had been contacted so that people could be advised to stay in other EU states as State accommodation could not be guaranteed in Ireland.
On Thursday night, 881 arrivals were accommodated in City West, the Minister said. Alternative forms of accommodation were always being sought, he added. When asked about objections in Claremorris to modular units, Mr O’Gorman said such accommodation was being rolled out under emergency legislation which did not require planning.
As the war in Ukraine continues, it is obvious that medium term plans are required and the Government was working hard to provide accommodation, the Minister said. He acknowledged that the international protection system processing system needed to operate more quickly, and everyone needs to recognise the new reality as the number of applicants has risen from 3,000 to 15,000 this year.
Minister O’Gorman also said that it was going to be challenging to end direct provision within the planned timescale. Some elements of the system would remain in place, but conditions would be “significantly improved” for people.
Nick Henderson, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council, has called on all government departments to fulfil their responsibilities for refugees and international protection applicants, adding that it had been “predictable” that accommodation options would run out and that the situation at Citywest would occur.
“Something had to give”, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
Lucky Khambule of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) said what was happening was simply not good enough. “It’s shocking that people won’t have a place to stay,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.
“We are very concerned with the way that the Government is reacting in terms of this influx of new people that are coming. We would think they would have found a solution with regard to helping people that are new in the country.”
While Mr Khambule sympathised with the Government’s predicament, he said that people should not be sleeping at an airport.
Sean Boyce of the Rosslare Harbour Friends of Ukraine group has complained of the “consistent lack of planning” that has led to the decision to pause the accommodation of international arrivals at Citywest.
“We have repeatedly talked about the lack of planning, we’re now seeing the result of it” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.
In Rosslare they are expecting more refugees by boat tomorrow. “We are left holding the baby. They can’t stay in Rosslare, they have to leave the port,” he explained.
“We will do our best locally. But where are all the houses the Government talked about back in March? What is the plan?”