Some refugees who have arrived in Ireland without accommodation have been supported by the Capuchin Day Centre for homeless people, and others have been returning to Dublin Airport, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said.
The situation arose after the Citywest transit hub was closed for new arrivals. A total of 33 Ukrainian refugees were informed that no accommodation was available to them on Friday, the Department of Children and Integration confirmed.
A spokeswoman for the department said all individuals who were turned away from the Citywest transit hub were male, and no women or children were turned away. The men who were not able to be accommodated were asked to provide contact details so they can be contacted when accommodation does become available.
Mr Martin said on Saturday evening that 33 was the latest number he had for people turned away from Citywest, and that he believed some without lodging options had returned to Dublin Airport.
He said: “The situation is not satisfactory”, and the Government is “urgently” seeking further accommodation while conceding “we are under pressure in respect of this”.
He also said that refugees went to the Capuchin Day Centre on Saturday, adding: “there is no accommodation for them unless they can secure it in an alternative way”. Mr Martin suggested some refugees may know people in Ireland who could accommodate them.
Speaking ahead of Saturday night’s Cairde Fáil dinner in Dublin, Mr Martin defended the Government’s record on accommodating refugees.
It was put to him by reporters that the numbers predicted to arrive earlier this year were expected to be much higher than the 55,000 people who have come here from Ukraine so far and that the State was slow in reacting. Mr Martin said he did not agree with that, saying the “figures were not expected to be higher”.
He said the State has been “remarkably fast” in its response to “the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Second World War”.
Ireland, he said has responded in an “extraordinary way”, accommodating up to 55,000 people from Ukraine and 9,000 people from other countries who are seeking international protection.
“We never before ever had to accommodate so many people in such a short space of time, as we have done now and it’s because we’re in a war-time situation there is no oth,er explanation for it.
“We will continue in terms of building additional capacity and doing everything we possibly can in terms of this issue.”
He insisted the “country has done well” and said that the numbers arriving had fallen as the situation stabilised in Ukraine, but are rising again because of the intensification of the war, which has taken “a very nasty turn”.
Mr Martin accused Russian president Vladimir Putin of weaponising migration and energy. He confirmed that the €400 per month support for families taking in refugees is being examined when asked if it would be increased and it will be among issues discussed at a Government meeting on Monday.
Sleeping on streets
Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman on Friday said he could not rule out that some refugees would end up sleeping on the streets.
“The department is working urgently across Government and with agencies, NGOs and local authorities to bring new accommodation on board so that the State’s humanitarian responsibilities can be met,” a spokeswoman for the department said.
“All those who have alternative accommodation options are asked to avail of these, including pledged accommodation and to not attend Citywest presently.”
Under current arrangements, new arrivals from Ukraine are transferred to Citywest transit hub, where they will be processed by the Department of Social Protection and Department of Justice as normal.
Any “vulnerable” applicants, including women and children, will be processed by the Department for Children and allocated accommodation. In the event that suitable accommodation is not available for everyone, the remaining applicants are informed, their contact details taken, and they are asked to keep in contact with the department for when accommodation might become available.
Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture Martin Heydon said the lack of available space to shelter incoming Ukrainian refugees was a concern.
There had been a “huge effort” to house the tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees and other asylum-seekers who had come to Ireland this year, he told RTÉ's Katie Hannon radio show on Saturday.
“The amount of people coming has increased significantly, while it had dropped off a little bit over the summer, it has more than doubled in recent weeks,” he said.
Mr Heydon said the increase in numbers arriving had put “stress and strain on the system”.
“This is about us being honest and straight up with people … We can’t guarantee everybody that comes here a bed right now because of the situation we’re in,” he said.
Earlier this week several councillors on Mayo County Council voiced strong opposition to plans to develop 28 modular homes for Ukrainian refugees in Claremorris.
Mr Heydon said comments from councillors pitting the housing needs of Ukrainian refugees against Irish people were “unacceptable”.
Wayne Stanley, head of policy at homeless charity Simon Communities, said the lack of accommodation for incoming refugees and asylum-seekers was “very worrying”.
There was no spare capacity in emergency accommodation for homeless people, meaning refugees could be left sleeping on the streets, he said.
The charity had seen “one or two isolated incidents” to date of Ukrainians arriving in Ireland and being forced to sleep rough, he said.
“We were concerned that this is a growing issue … the coming weeks are going to be very difficult, so we are very concerned,” he said.
“As the capacity tightens further, it is a really worrying vista that even families may get caught up [sleeping rough] as well,” he said.