One third of Ukrainian refugees are now being accommodated in hotels, Ministers were told on Tuesday amid attempts to source other forms of accommodation to deal with the war-related influx.
The Cabinet heard that 6,646 refugees have now arrived in Ireland, with 2,262 in hotels. A Government source said 452 sought accommodation on Monday, and the numbers were increasing steadily since last week.
Between 150 and 250 were seeking accommodation on a daily basis last week but that had grown to 300-450 per day over the weekend and in the early part of this week.
The increase heralds a new challenge for the State as the composition of refugees arriving has now clearly changed from those who had family or social support available in the country, to those who need greater levels of support, the Government source added.
The increased demand for hotels will also create a need to move people on to housing that is more suitable in the medium term.
Coalition sources indicated the aim was to begin moving refugees out to accommodation pledged through the Red Cross in the coming days, starting with vacant homes. The Government is thought to have in the region of 2,500 hotel rooms available to it, and is seeking another 1,000 but a source cautioned the situation was “all very fluid”.
Cabinet was told that around 4,000 PPS numbers have been issued to arriving Ukrainian refugees so far.
Following the Cabinet meeting, the Government announced it had agreed to take in 500 people who had fled Ukraine to the neighbouring country of Moldova.
It has also approved €18 million for an emergency support scheme for the licensed haulage sector. Under the scheme, announced last week, the Government will pay hauliers €100 a week per lorry to help the industry cope with the surge in fuel prices arising from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Cabinet ministers held the quickly-arranged incorporeal meeting to examine further action that could be taken in light of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Ukraine, and the deep impact it has having on the global energy sector, including in Ireland.
With most Ministers abroad for St Patrick’s Day festivities, the meeting was held by video conference.
Given the significant increases in refugees fleeing the country, and those arriving into Ireland, it was decided that the State would quickly ramp up the humanitarian response in order to provide accommodation and other essential supports rapidly and at scale.
It was agreed that refugees would begin to be accommodated in bed and breakfast lodgings as well as in some of the homes of the more than 20,000 people who had volunteered to host people escaping the war.
The Irish Red Cross said 18,350 places of accommodation had been pledged by members of the public by Tuesday afternoon, with a further 5,000 pledges coming in from other charities.
In a statement, the Government said that Russian military aggression must cease immediately “for the sake of the lives and safety of people in Ukraine.
“Russia’s actions are simply unacceptable and the Government reiterates its strong solidarity with the Government and people of Ukraine.”
Cabinet ministers are said to have considered a number of challenges now arising for Ireland’s and, Europe’s economies, particularly the impact of rising energy costs - given the very significant increases in wholesale prices and supply constraints in the international markets for gas and oil.
Without committing as yet to any new measures for domestic users and motorists, the statement said the Government would continue to examine what measures may be taken to manage the energy supply and price impacts.
“The significant retail price increases announced today by Bord Gáis Energy are a matter of strong concern to the Government, particularly the impact on low income households.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has seen unprecedented levels of price increases and volatility in energy markets.”
In the statement it said preparations are being escalated to provide accommodation in: hotels, guest houses and B&Bs; accommodation pledged by the general public; State-owned or private properties which may be suitable for short-term accommodation; religious properties; and local authority facilities.
“Given the very extreme pressures being faced by Moldova in the current circumstances, the Government has agreed, as part of an EU response, to offer to accept from Moldova up to 500 people who have fled the war in Ukraine,” the statement added.
Government ministers say they expect between 80,000 and 100,000 Ukrainian nationals may end up moving here. About a third are likely to be children.
Minister for Education Norma Foley said there will need to be a draw on the expertise of Ukrainian teachers and those with expertise in the Ukrainian language to help students integrate into Irish classrooms.
Ukrainian teachers will be fast-tracked through the registration process to allow them to teach in Irish classrooms.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland Larysa Gerasko has said that while talks continue in the hope of finding a peaceful solution to the conflict “we will never forget and we will never forgive”.
Ms Gerasko told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that people had a lot of questions – how to get education for their children, how to get them into school and kindergarten, how to access a GP. “It’s very difficult for them, some of them don’t have friends or relatives here. They don’t understand how the system in the country works.”
Ms Gerasko pointed out that many also did not speak English so the Ukrainian community was trying to assist with translators.
When asked how many Ukrainians she thought would come to Ireland, the ambassador said it was very difficult to predict, more would come, perhaps up to 80,000. But many Ukrainians did not realise that the visa requirement for Ireland had gone, she said. If Ukrainian media communicated that a visa was no longer needed for Ireland then “many thousands will arrive”.
Ms Gerasko thanked the Irish Government and the Irish people.
Her own parents remained in Ukraine and refused to leave their home to join her in Ireland. She said that she asked them every day to come to her. Ms Gerasko said her mother finished every conversation saying “I hope we will be alive tomorrow”.