Department offered thousands of beds to Ukrainians that were already filled with refugees

Tensions grow between two Government departments over their respective roles in handling the fallout from the Ukrainian crisis

Thousands of bed spaces offered to accommodate Ukrainian refugees by the Department of Housing were already occupied by people fleeing the conflict in their home country.

Up to 5,000 people were to be accommodated in 89 buildings that were included on a list given to the Department of Integration by the Department of Housing in April.

But when officials in Roderic O’Gorman’s Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Integration (DCEDIY) examined the list, they found that half were already occupied, with its own crisis accommodation team having placed people there.

A Department of Integration spokesman said that “approximately half [2,437 bed spaces] were already in use by this department at the time the list was received”. The specialist unit within the department, the Ukraine Crisis Temporary Accommodation Team, “examined the remainder and all options were explored”.

READ MORE

The spokesman said that “any viable options which emerged have now been put into use and the resources included on the list have now been exhausted”.

As the Ukrainian housing crisis grew during the spring, the Department of Housing was tasked with finding medium-term accommodation for the refugees. The Department of Integration is responsible for handling the immediate needs of those arriving into the country, housing them in hotels, guesthouses and other forms of serviced accommodation – as well as in emergency and reception centres such as Citywest, Gormanston Army camp and Millstreet Arena in Co Cork.

However, there are now growing tensions between the two departments over their respective roles in handling the fallout from the Ukrainian crisis, with all settings full or running at a limited capacity in the case of Gormanston, and officials are frustrated over a lack of medium-term options emerging. Earlier this summer, people had to sleep on the floor of the old terminal building at Dublin Airport as there was nowhere for them to go.

The vast majority of those fleeing the conflict remain in some form of short-term accommodation, new figures from the Department of Integration show. Of some 33,600 who have sought protection here, 24,660 beds are being provided for them in serviced, emergency or repurposed settings, with further capacity from student accommodation and pledged properties.

Asked about the list of properties and bed spaces, the Department of Housing said a team of former local authority officials had compiled the list. “Rather than delay until all the properties were checked and validated, and given the pressing need for accommodation at the time, properties were notified by the team to DCEDIY on an ongoing basis.

“Appropriately, by the time the full exercise was completed and the list of properties formally handed over, properties had already been brought into use or were being pursued by DCEDIY”.

When asked for a detailed and realistic timeframe for how many “medium-term” beds the department expects to source or provide before December, the Department of Housing said the question should be directed to the Department of Integration “as they are responsible for meeting the immediate and short-term accommodation needs of persons arriving in Ireland from the conflict in Ukraine”.

As recently as last week, the department was issuing press responses saying it had identified properties suitable for 5,000 people that were available for “almost immediate occupation”. It said it was conducting a further examination of properties identified in 22 local authority areas which would “be delivered into use on a rolling basis over the coming months”.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times