Ireland could take in as many as 200,000 refugees fleeing the war in Ukranie, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said.
Mr McConalogue said that Ireland has no option but to “reach out to those of our fellow European citizens who are displaced who have nowhere else to go.”
“We have to do our best”, said Mr McConalogue acknowledging to RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that the task would be challenging.
All Government agencies were working together to identify potential accommodation and to ensure that refugees who arrive are provided with shelter, healthcare and education, he said.
Proportionally it was possible that Ireland would receive 200,000 refugees, he said. At present 10,000 have arrived. The situation will continue to be processed at national and at European level, he said.
The response from the Irish public in offering accommodation had been phenomenal, added the Minister.
As many as 10 million people, mostly women and children, have fled fighting in Ukraine, either moving within the country or escaping abroad, in an "unprecedented" exodus for modern times, the UN refugee agency has said.
Some 6.5 million people have been displaced within the war-ravaged nation, while almost 3.5 million have crossed borders to safety since Russia invaded on February 24th, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said on Monday.
“The combined speed and scale of this movement is unprecedented in recent memory,” said Matthew Saltmarsh, head of news at the refugee agency. “In Ukraine, our priority has been to scale up our presence and operations in central and western regions, where conditions enable better humanitarian access and needs are rapidly growing as people evacuate west and move across borders.”
In neighbouring countries, the agency workers have focused on cross-border aid delivery, cash provision and helping refugees while supporting the host governments, authorities and local communities, Mr Saltmarsh added.
In Ireland, 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.