More than 50% of accommodation pledges for Ukrainian refugees fail to materialise

Cabinet told up to 33,000 people could be seeking shelter by end of May

More than half of the 24,000 pledges of accommodation for Ukrainian refugees have so far failed to materialise either because the offer has been withdrawn by the property owner or they cannot be contacted.

The Government is scrambling to find accommodation for people fleeing the Russian attack on Ukraine as the emergency facility at Millstreet Arena in Co Cork began to be used for the first time on Wednesday.

Cabinet was told on Wednesday evening that there could be 29,000-33,000 people seeking accommodation by the end of next month, and that people could be waiting for weeks before receiving accommodation unless thousands more beds are sourced.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Wednesday spoke of the pressures posed by the arrival of refugees into Ireland and expressed a hope that pledges of accommodation could be brought on stream more quickly.

His remarks came after a meeting with Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal at Shannon Airport where the pair discussed the ongoing war and humanitarian crisis.

The Irish Red Cross has been compiling offers of accommodation from the public and has received pledges of 5,714 vacant and 18,322 shared homes to date.

However, the latest figures from the organisation show that just over half of the 24,036 offers have not materialised.

Some 3,465 offers have been withdrawn outright and a further 9,184 property owners have proved to be uncontactable – a combined total of 12,649.

Multiple attempts have been made to get in touch with people who cannot be contacted, including in the evenings and at weekends.

Emergency accommodation

People fleeing Ukraine have largely been housed either with family and friends or in hotels upon arrival into the State. A shortfall in hotel beds means emergency accommodation facilities are now beginning to be used.

Up to 70 refugees were set to be sent to the Green Glens Arena at Millstreet on Wednesday night where there is capacity for 320 people.

Details of just under 700 pledged properties have been sent to local authorities, and 100 sent to other bodies for housing refugees.

By the end of this week, it’s expected that about 200 people will have moved into pledged vacant properties.

A paper prepared for Ministers outlined how modelling indicated there could be a shortfall of 8,300 beds by the end of May. If accommodation is not sourced, people could be waiting for up to 27 days without accommodation.

Ministers were told there was a “high risk of shortages of emergency and short-term accommodation in the immediate term”.

A major memorandum will be brought to the Government next week outlining a full risk assessment across all aspects of the humanitarian response.

A Government source said the approach was to get "anywhere we can get", and it is now expected that a deal to take over the entire Citywest complex, including the 700-bedroom hotel in the facility, will be completed by the end of this week.

There have been 10,500 hotel beds sourced, with more than 1,200 people in emergency beds already – used on an ad hoc basis by local authorities across the country in places such as community centres.

Meanwhile, the Central Bank has told the Government that more than €1 billion in Russian assets in Ireland has been frozen up to last week.