None of the 300 Health Service Executive properties identified last year as possible accommodation for refugees were deemed to be suitable by the Department of Integration.
In 2022, the Department of Health provided the department responsible for accommodating Ukrainian and other refugees with a list of 300 properties owned by the HSE that it believed might be suitable for accommodation for refugees.
In response to queries from The Irish Times, the Department of Integration said that it had reviewed the list from the HSE but the properties were not currently appropriate for refugees.
“The properties in question required significant refurbishment and thus were not suitable for immediate use by this department,” a spokesman for the department said.
The Government has been scrambling to find more places to house newly arrived refugees, as more than 4,500 refugees and asylum seekers have into the State since the start of this year. This includes just over 3,000 Ukrainians who have fled the Russian invasion of their home country.
This is in addition to the 70,000 Ukrainians who arrived last year after the war began. There were also 19,000 international protection applicants being housed by the State last year.
The Department of Integration said it expected the list of HSE properties would be assessed by the Department of Taoiseach working group, chaired by former Limerick city and county chief executive Conn Murray, that is co-ordinating the delivery of accommodation for refugees.
Among the properties suggested by the HSE was St Ita’s, the former psychiatric hospital in Portrane, north Co Dublin, which closed nine years ago.
In a December 2022 briefing note prepared for Minister of State for Integration Joe O’Brien, who is responsible for the Ukrainian response, department officials told the Green Party politician that most HSE properties offered “require significant capital works to make them habitable.”
The note made reference to St Ita’s, which at the time it was built in the early 20th century was the most expensive building ever commissioned by the British government in Ireland.
[ Temporary accommodation centre in west Dublin housing 148 refugees to be evacuated ]
The Department of Health said that last year it provided the Department of Integration with a “comprehensive overview of those properties currently owned by the HSE and surplus to health service requirements which may be suitable for the provision of accommodation.”
The department said the HSE had also seconded a key member of its estate accommodation team to the interdepartmental group overseeing the State’s response to providing accommodation to Ukrainian refugees.
While the Department of Integration continues to engage with the HSE on the list of properties, it had “not taken over any properties at present,” the Department of Health said.