Efforts to accommodate Ukrainian refugees will focus on hotel rooms and vacant properties offered by the public, before spare rooms in people's homes are considered, Minister for Equality Roderic O'Gorman has said.
To date more than 9,000 refugees have arrived in the State since Russia invaded Ukraine last month.
Half of those, some 4,500, are currently being accommodated in hotel rooms, while others are staying with family or friends in Ireland, Mr O’Gorman said.
More than 20,000 spare rooms or vacant properties have been offered by the public to house Ukrainian refugees, as part of an accommodation pledge scheme organised by the Irish Red Cross.
The majority of offers are spare rooms in an occupied home, with around 2,000 vacant properties among the pledged accommodation.
Speaking on Sunday, Mr O’Gorman said the Government was expecting to need to house “tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees in the weeks ahead”.
“We’re continuing to look to book hotel accommodation to deal with short term accommodation needs,” he told RTÉ’s This Week show.
The Government was also preparing to open mass accommodation centres, to provide immediate shelter in the event of a surge of arrivals, while temporary hotel accommodation was being secured, he said.
The Millstreet Arena in Co Cork, also known as the Green Glens Arena, and the National Show Centre, near Dublin Airport, were being considered to house hundreds of refugees “for very short term stays,” Mr O’Gorman said.
The centres would provide shelter to avoid people waiting for long periods in Dublin Airport, with food and “somewhere to rest,” he said.
Department officials and Red Cross staff were assessing accommodation offered by the public, to match suitable rooms and properties with Ukrainian refugees.
“My department are looking to start to activate some of those accommodation options now, starting initially with options of vacant housing,” Mr O’Gorman said.
The initial focus would be to place refugees in vacant properties pledged for housing, which would “significantly ramp up” over the coming week, he said.
The Minister said offers of spare rooms in shared homes would then be considered after suitable vacant properties were filled, likely from around three weeks’ time onwards.
The public had risen “to the moment” in offering to open their homes to Ukrainian’s fleeing the Russian invasion, he said.
Placing refugees in hotel rooms as they arrived in Ireland would be part of the “short term solution” to housing, he said. Officials were block booking hotel accommodation, which was “necessary to ensure we have rooms for people when they arrive in the country,” he said.
“There will be a range of medium to longer term solutions brought forward by the Government over the next number of weeks,” the Green Party TD said.
Estimates of how many refugees fleeing the war may come to Ireland range up to 100,000 people, with millions of Ukrainians displaced by the conflict already crossing into other European countries.
“All Government departments are working closely together to look at what the longer term accommodation options are,” Mr O’Gorman said.
Ukrainian children would be placed in schools after the family had been moved from hotel rooms to “more medium term accommodation,” he said.