Almost 2,500 housing offers for Ukrainians as portal starts processing pledges

Minister says portal will allow people make offers of accommodation ‘in a clear way’

More than 2,420 pledges to accommodate Ukrainian refugees have been made by the public as the Irish Red Cross began contacting people who have registered a spare room or vacant property online.

The Government is using the Irish Red Cross portal, registerofpledges.redcross.ie, that allows people register any rooms or properties available to help accommodate Ukrainian refugees arriving into the country.

Volunteers from phone company Three and tech conference organiser Web Summit began contacting people on Monday to verify the pledges they have made.

As part of the vetting process, the Irish Red Cross will then visit the accommodation to assess its condition, determine the length of time the accommodation will be available and meet the provider.

Liam O’Dwyer, secretary general of the Irish Red Cross, estimated that it would take about three weeks before Ukrainian refugees would be able to move into the properties.

“By the time you get out to look at the property and link the refugee with the property, that is the kind of time that is involved,” he said.

Unlike the campaigns to house Afghan and Syrian refugees in the past, Mr O’Dwyer said it was not clear of the number of Ukrainians who would ultimately require accommodation.

The Department of Children is helping to fund the administration of the service, which Mr O’Dwyer estimated would require between six and eight people to run with other agencies also likely to become involved.

The duration of accommodation accepted under pledges will be for a period of six months to a year.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said there had been “a huge number of offers of accommodation” and the portal would allow the State to assess the kinds of properties being offered.

“This is a work in progress and we are asking people to bear with us,” he said.

“This portal is really important in terms of getting a sense of what people have to offer, giving them an opportunity to make that offer in a clear way and allowing our department to get back to them and explore the offers further.”

On arrival into the State, Ukrainians will be sheltered first in emergency hotel accommodation and will then be asked to register with the Irish Red Cross before the charity later links them with accommodation donors.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Monday that about 1,800 Ukrainians had arrived into the State including 486 on Sunday. This compares with just over 1,100 who received refugee or protection status pre-Covid in 2019.

Mr O'Gorman said his department had provided accommodation to about 510 Ukrainians since February 26th, representing almost a third of all refugees arriving from Ukraine since Russia's invasion.

The putting in place of immediate access to social protection and financial supports for Ukrainian refugees is expected to be considered by Cabinet when it meets on Tuesday.

Senior minister Simon Harris has said Ukrainian people arriving in Ireland will have the same entitlements as Irish people under a temporary European Union directive.

Healthcare support

Meanwhile, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said Ireland was looking at sending medical supplies to Ukraine while also providing healthcare support including medical cards for refugees fleeing to Ireland following its invasion by Russia.

Mr Donnelly said incoming refugees from the conflict will be provided with medical cards and given full access to healthcare facilities and our Covid-19 vaccination programme, as well as mental health supports.

He said he would be meeting the Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland later on Monday to make sure Ireland is doing “everything it can from a healthcare perspective”.

Last week, the Minister met Ukrainian clinicians working in Ireland and, out of this, it was agreed to look at getting medical supplies out to Ukraine in conjunction with other European Union countries.

Asked how many refugees Ireland will accept from Ukraine, he said the Government expects to take in a pro rata number equivalent to 2 per cent of those coming to the EU.

"So for every million Ukrainians who will be coming into Europe, Ireland would take 20,000. Certainly, we are working on the assumption that a very, very large number of men, women and children are going to come here and we've got to do everything we can to support them," he said.

Mr Donnelly said Ireland was standing “shoulder to shoulder” with Ukraine and he described as “outrageous” Russia was doing to the country.