Only about one in seven homes cleared to accommodate Ukrainian war refugees in the State have been occupied so far.
Just over 260 vacant properties offered by the public are now being occupied out of 1,900 empty properties deemed suitable to accommodate refugees, latest figures show.
The Irish Red Cross has received 25,000 offers of housing from the public. Suitable housing offers are passed by the humanitarian charity to the Department of Children and Equality which then places refugees into the accommodation with the help of local authorities and non-governmental organisations.
In a statement, the department said 577 Ukrainian refugees had been moved into 261 properties offered by the public so far.
The department said the work placing refugees into the properties was being carried out by local authorities, homeless charity Peter McVerry Trust, and the International Organisation for Migration.
A department spokesman said it had sent more than 1,000 of the suitable vacant properties to those partners, who were working to match refugees with properties and set them up in the homes.
This work includes trying to place people near to specific services they might need, which meant the process took time to “get it right”, the spokesman said. The department had committed “extra resources” to the work of moving refugees into the pledged accommodation being sent forward by the Irish Red Cross. It was hoped the numbers successfully placed in spare homes and rooms offered by the public would begin to “ramp up” shortly, he said.
The Peter McVerry Trust was brought in to assist the work last week as the charity has experience assisting asylum seekers in direct provision move into rented housing, as well as moving people from its homeless accommodation into own-door social housing.
The Irish Red Cross prioritised contacting people who had offered vacant properties first, and is now focusing on contacting homeowners offering to host refugees in spare rooms.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael’s Seanad leader, Regina Doherty, has said the Government’s response to help Moldova manage refugees fleeing war in neighbouring Ukraine was an “absolute disgrace”.
Speaking during an appearance by the ambassadors of Moldova and Romania at the Oireachtas EU affairs committee, Ms Doherty condemned the Government’s support for Moldova, which has, relative to its population, taken in more Ukrainian refugees than any other country.
The Government has pledged €1 million and offered to take in 500 elderly and vulnerable Ukrainian refugees who are currently in Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe.
Ms Doherty said: “We are clapping ourselves on the back for giving the Moldovan government €1 million. It is buttons and it is an embarrassment and we should absolutely be doing much more.”
Moldova’s ambassador, Larisa Miculet, told the committee she was not aware if any of the 500 Ukrainian refugees that the Government offered to accept had arrived in the State yet.
Ms Doherty urged the committee to call the Ministers for Justice, Housing and Foreign Affairs, along with the European Commission, to appear to “find out exactly what the hell is going on”.
She was one of four members of the Oireachtas committee to travel to Moldova and Romania earlier this month to see how the countries were coping with the humanitarian crisis that has led to more than 435,000 people crossing from Ukraine into Moldova, a country of 2.6 million people.
More than 95,000 refugees have remained in Moldova with the remainder travelling on to other countries.