Garda aims for seven-day turnaround in vetting premises for Ukrainian refugees

Reception hub to be opened in Rosslare after ‘dramatic increase’ in arrivals at port

Vetting of premises hosting Ukrainian refugees will be turned around within seven days, under the terms of a deal agreed by the Red Cross, the Government and the Garda.

Cabinet will be told on Tuesday that offers of accommodation where a child or vulnerable adult is involved will be subject to vetting, and that the Garda have agreed to allocate extra resources to aim for a seven-day turnaround time on applications.

Only 2,000-4,000 of the 20,000 pledges relate to vacant accommodation, with Government sources now expecting to place refugees in people’s homes soon, meaning the vetting system will also have to get up and running.

Government sources also indicated a meeting will be sought with the construction sector over the provision of accommodation for refugees.

A reception hub is also to be opened in Rosslare, similar to those in Dublin and Cork Airports, after the port saw what a source said was a “dramatic increase” in arrivals in the past few days.

Cabinet will also consider a proposal from Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to bring forward a package worth €12 million to support tillage farming and planting of crops. The package is designed to support the production of more native crops and those with a lower demand for chemical fertiliser, as the agricultural sector struggles with the impact of the war in Ukraine.

Russia’s invasion of the eastern European country has disrupted Irish agriculture and supply chains, driving hyper-inflation in the energy market, but also introducing unprecedented volatility to the food supply chain.

The package will consist of a tillage incentive scheme designed to encourage farmers to grow additional tillage crops such as barley, oats and wheat this year, with a payment of €400 per hectare – a higher rate will be considered for crops that are more costly to produce. The Department of Agriculture believes an additional 25,000 hectares of these crops could be grown in 2022.

A separate scheme will pay farmers €300 per hectare for protein crops such as peas and beans, and combined crops of cereal and protein products.

The target, Ministers will be told, is to bring the area given over to protein crops from 10,000 hectares to 14,000.

Diplomatic developments

In addition to food security and the demands of the refugee crisis, the Cabinet will be given an update on diplomatic developments, especially at the meetings of foreign and defence ministers in Brussels on Monday, and the plans to double the size of the European Peace Facility, which is used to provide military aid to Ukraine. Ministers will also be briefed on education plans for refugees, and the security situation on the ground in Ukraine, where about 40 Irish citizens remain.

More than 19,000 members of the public have registered accommodation through the Irish Red Cross’ online portal, with an additional 5,000 pledges coming from other charities and organisations.

The registrations are the number of people, with some of those individuals having pledged more than one property.

A number of companies and developers are also included on the register, with some offering more than 10 housing units for up to a year.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the Government would consider helping people who host Ukrainian refugees with the cost of doing so, although Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has indicated there would be no specific payment for hosting.

Student accommodation is also being made available to refugees.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said more than 1,000 student beds were already being offered up by colleges and he would be discussing with officials to see how those numbers can be ramped up further.

Mr Harris also confirmed he and his family had registered to provide a room for any Ukrainians who need it. Mr Varadkar and his partner Matt have also pledged a room.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times