State faces shortfall of more than 14,000 refugee beds by end of March, Minister warned

Briefing documents show current accommodation system is ‘unsustainable’

The State is facing a shortfall of more than 14,000 beds for refugees before the end of March, with Government briefing documents starkly warning that the current accommodation system is “unsustainable”.

Papers drawn up last month by the Department of Integration show “projected shortfalls in the immediate short term” and warn that a “significant acceleration in cross-Government efforts” will be needed to source more accommodation.

Without it, they note, “it is inevitable that there will be shortages of available accommodation” and internal modelling shows “gaps in provision of accommodation emerging”.

Briefing documents drawn up for Minister of State Joe O’Brien, who is taking up new responsibilities in the Department of Integration, warn that the “present provision model is also unsustainable as oversight of accommodation at this scale and pace entails many challenges”.


The documents flag an “inability to engage with communities appropriately and in time” and note “operational challenges” and the problem of “continued concentration of available accommodation in particular areas” where there are pressures on services such as health and education.

Mr O’Brien was advised that with more people continuing to arrive it is “inevitable” that new reception centres will have to be opened “across the country and for the foreseeable future”.

A €50 million fund has been drawn up for communities and approved by the Government, but warnings around its necessity show the depths of the concerns in the department. Officials said that without it “we risk being hostage to the far-right in many of our future negotiations, thus hobbling our ability to address our current accommodation shortage”.

Modelling included in the documents shows that for Beneficiaries of Temporary Protection – those arriving from Ukraine – there could be a shortfall of 8,024 places by March, in addition to a shortage of 6,155 places for international protection applicants. A “high risk” of losing existing accommodation should “providers pivot back to tourism” later in the year is also noted.

Doubt is also cast in the documents, released by the department following a Freedom of Information request, over the extent to which modular homes – a key part of the State’s strategy to extend accommodation options beyond hotels and pledged accommodation – can be delivered.

“Progress is slow” on this aspect, the briefing states, “because of continuing nervousness within the communities earmarked for even the phase one sites”.

The Minister of State was told that “community engagement is ongoing in relation to phase two sites but it is likely that the scale of some projects may have to be reduced in response to community backlash”. The document goes on to emphasise that new sites will be needed as it is likely some “will not work out because of problems either with the site or with the communities within which the units will be located”.

In October, the Government announced a range of measures hardening the State’s approach to accommodating refugees, including a “refusals policy” which meant recipients could not turn down multiple offers of accommodation, and a new system for charging people for meals. The documents indicate that this will be set at €10 a day for three meals for adults and €5 a day for children.

The department itself is facing a staffing shortfall, with more than 25 urgent vacancies in its Ukrainian unit and elsewhere where staff have been diverted.

Social Democrats integration spokeswoman Jennifer Whitmore said it was clear the department had been “overburdened”.

“The additional pressure being placed on the department now means that other important functions will not be met,” she said as she called on the Government to increase staffing, funding and assistance.

“In the absence of this level of support, the Government will be giving the Department of Children an impossible task and ultimately setting it up to fail.”

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times