Defence Forces to set up tents for refugees fleeing Ukraine

Facility in Co Meath to be used on temporary basis in case alternatives not available

The Defence Forces are to set up tents in a military camp in Co Meath to offer emergency accommodation to Ukrainian refugees arriving in the State, if longer-term options are not immediately available.

Revealing the move, Minister for Integration Roderic O'Gorman said more than half of the 12,057 refugees who had arrived in Ireland have sought help from the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS).

Many Ukrainians have so far arranged their own accommodation, but more than 6,200 have needed State help. Hotel beds have been offered first, but other measures will be necessary to cope with the expected arrival of tens of thousands.

So far, the Government has signed contracts for the long-term rental of 2,773 hotel rooms, along with shorter lets. Meanwhile, talks are under way with and refugee support organisation, The Open Community.


‘Humanitarian crisis’

The tents will be based in Gormanston Camp, Co Meath: "We are facing a humanitarian crisis on a scale never before seen in Ireland," Mr O'Gorman said.

"We are steadfast in our solidarity with the plight of people who have been displaced by the war in Ukraine, and we continue to extend a welcome to the many people who have arrived here seeking safety and shelter," he added.

Highlighting the challenges ahead, he said 633 of the 862 Ukrainians who arrived in the State on March 24th alone sought help: “This is the highest number to date.”

However, the accommodation so far available from local authorities, religious organisations, State bodies and pledges by the public will be “unlikely” to be enough to cope with the higher predicted refugee numbers.

‘Shelter and security’

The Green Glens Arena and CityWest will be used, too. Tents in Gormanston are not ideal, he admitted: “Although [they are] not our first preference, it is however a contingency that may soon be used.”

Every effort will be made to ensure that no one stays for long in the Gormanston tents, he said, but Ireland knows “the offer of shelter and security is the least of what we must do for those in need”.

So, 22,657 pledges of accommodation, shared and unshared, have been made to the Irish Red Cross, including nearly 5,000 vacant properties. Nearly 800 inspections by the Defence Forces are getting under way.

Seventy four properties have been withdrawn. Meanwhile, the Red Cross is working with the Garda National Vetting Bureau to ensure "maximum speed" vetting, he declared.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times