A renewed push is under way to secure refugee beds with “greater efforts” needed across Government to find large-scale accommodation amid a predicted shortfall of 600 places in the next four weeks.
Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman is to write again to Government departments and State agencies seeking suitable properties to accommodate people seeking international protection in the State – some of whom are being turned away when they arrive into the country.
The Irish Times understands that the Cabinet committee examining refugee accommodation was warned that, on current projections, if the rate of weekly arrivals of International Protection (IP) applicants continues, there will be an immediate shortfall of accommodation for 600 people over the next four weeks.
There are about 300 IP applicants arriving per week – who are fleeing places other than Ukraine – with just under half being single males, with families being given preference when scarce beds are allocated.
Greater shortfalls are predicted to the end of March, when, in a worst-case scenario, there could be a 19,000-bed shortfall when Ukrainians and IP applicants are included.
Mr O’Gorman said on Wednesday that this is leaving the State exposed as it is not in keeping with its obligations under international law.
“We’re asking Government and we’re asking other State agencies to assist us in obtaining those buildings,” he said on RTÉ Radio on Wednesday.
“I’ll be engaging with other departments, with other Ministers in terms of clear asks that we need to ensure that we aren’t leaving people unaccommodated – that’s in breach of our international obligations and that’s not a situation that Government can stand over.”
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He said that “in this next phase of our response, there will need to be greater efforts across all of Government”.
There are almost 20,000 people accommodated in the international protection system with 4,000 expected to arrive in Ireland by the end of April, a committee of senior Ministers was told earlier this week.
Elsewhere, a new Oireachtas committee to examine the refugee crisis response could come on stream following a suggestion from Social Democrats TD for Dublin Central Gary Gannon. Mr Gannon said in the Dáil on Wednesday that deputies are coming under pressure to field queries from constituents on refugee accommodation as well as those who have come into the State.
“It is not fair that we continuously have to contact one Minister, who answers our calls when he can, to seek answers to questions,” he said, referring to Mr O’Gorman. “It is time for a cross-party committee like the former Special Committee on Covid-19 Response, with each of us having responsibility to engage with the issue and collaborate because nefarious far-right groups are stepping in to take advantage and generate fear.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the committee is a “good idea”.
“On the particular issue of an additional committee, that is something the Business Committee could consider,” Mr Varadkar said on the Dáil.