Ukrainian refugees: Hotels run out of space as Cork emergency accommodation to be used

Cork facility to house refugees on short-term basis, Cabinet to be told

Hundreds of refugees fleeing war in Ukraine are due to be placed in emergency mass accommodation in Cork from this week, the Cabinet will be told on Wednesday.

About 1,000 Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion arrived into Ireland over the Easter weekend.

The Cabinet will receive an update on Wednesday evening on the Government response to the crisis, with Ministers set to be told that hotel accommodation is now near capacity.

The Government expects to begin using the emergency accommodation facility at Millstreet Arena in Cork from this week onwards, with 300 spaces available.

Sources indicated that local authorities began using temporary emergency accommodation last week and continued to do so over the Easter weekend as hotel availability was low and reception facilities at Citywest needed to be kept free to handle more arrivals as they came.

Millstreet is intended to house refugees on a short-term basis, sources said, until medium-term accommodation becomes available.

About 700 voluntary pledges of accommodation from the public have this week been sent to local authorities but sources warned it would take time to allocate these as the aim was to match properties to the specific needs of the refugees.

The Cabinet will also be updated on the latest figures for Ukrainian refugees arriving into the country, which dipped over the Easter break. Just over 24,300 have arrived here to date, with 16,000 in State-provided accommodation.

‘Violent assault’

Speaking about the crisis on Tuesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said “sovereign European democracy is being subjected to the most horrific and violent assault”.

“It is an assault not only on a country and on a people, but it is an assault on our values and our way of life in Europe. It is an assault on the very idea of Europe. EU leaders have been clear in condemning this invasion as immoral and unjustifiable,” he told the European Youth Parliament Ireland.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said on Tuesday that Russian forces in Ukraine had shown “an utter disregard for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians”.

Speaking at the United Nations in New York he said what he had seen on a visit to Ukraine last week was “profoundly shocking” and would in the future be determined as “war crimes” by a court of law.

Student helpdesk

Separately, Minster for Higher Education Simon Harris is to establish a central helpdesk for Ukrainian students who want to continue their studies in Ireland. It will be manned by guidance counsellors and other experts who will be able to direct the students to local colleges equipped to meet their needs.

Mr Harris acknowledged there were additional pressures facing the education system as a result of the number of displaced people arriving in Ireland. “But these are pressures that we are bound to embrace, in solidarity with our Ukrainian neighbours at this time of crisis,” he said.

Meanwhile, thousands of Russian troops backed by artillery and rocket barrages began a long-anticipated offensive in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, prompting western countries to pledge more arms and money to the Kyiv government.

Ukrainian officials said their soldiers would withstand the assault, which they dubbed the Battle of the Donbas. But Russian forces advanced across almost the entire stretch of the eastern front and, hours after its start, seized the frontline city of Kreminna, an administrative centre of 18,000 people in Luhansk, one of the two Donbas provinces alongside Donetsk. – Additional reporting: Reuters