Hotels ending refugee accommodation contracts will be a ‘problem’, Minister says

Tánaiste says there are ‘certain realities around what we can do’ given large numbers seeking protection in State

There will be a “problem” in the coming weeks when a number of hotels currently accommodating refugees end their contracts with the Government, Minister of State for Integration Joe O’Brien has said.

Mr O’Brien said he was not going to “sugarcoat” the situation and there was an “inadequate” number of contracts to replace those coming off stream and that there would be intensive work in the weeks ahead to find new arrangements.

The Dublin Fingal TD was speaking on RTÉ Radio 1 on Saturday after The Irish Times reported that the Department of Integration has started contacting 1,600 refugees living in hotels to say they are being moved on as the hotels are ending their accommodation contracts with the tourist-season looming. Letters have already been sent to some of those affected, among them are families with children of school-going age.

Mr O’Brien said he did not have the “specifics” as to where and when those affected would be moved on to.


“I’m assuming as beneficiaries of temporary protection, it’s likely they’re going to be moved to serviced accommodation elsewhere in the country,” he said. “We do try our best to minimise the disruption, but the situation is very pressing. Shelter is number one, and we are largely being able to accomplish that.”

‘We do have a problem’

The Green Party TD also said he did not have figures as to how many hotels would not being renewing their contracts with the State and that the department was “continually bringing on new contracts as well”.

“We do have a problem, I’m not going to sugarcoat that, we do have a problem in the upcoming weeks and months in terms of likely ending of contracts where we don’t have adequate contracts coming on to replace them,” he said.

“But there is very intensive work to add more contracts as we go along.”

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said the Government did not want to have to move people on from their accommodation but that problems arise when you have to source beds on a scale never before required.

He said the figure of 1,600 should be seen in the context of the 49,000 people provided with State accommodation to date. He said more hotels would withdraw from the scheme but that the vast majority would be maintaining their contracts.

He said a “combination of measures” were being taken to provide additional accommodation but with “such numbers coming in a such a short space of time, there are certain realities around what we can do”.

“The degree of the Irish response has been very significant. Can we do better again? We can and we will work on this to increase new opportunities for accommodation both on the rapid build side and on developing pods on particular sites that we have earmarked like Thornton Hall (north Co Dublin), Columb Barracks (Mulingar) and so on,” he told reporters in Tralee on Saturday.

“We are exploring with the Working Accommodation Group a range of options to help both those who have to come out of hotels where the expiry date arrives but also in terms of more medium-term accommodation.”

Tented accommodation

His colleague, Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman on Saturday said there is “still some reliance on tented accommodation” for people fleeing war in Ukraine.

“That’s not a preference, undoubtedly, but it is a recognition that we are responding to this huge humanitarian crisis at a time when we already had huge pressures on accommodation in our country,” he told Newstalk’s Anton Savage show.

“It’s a wartime situation and I’d also recognise the very significant number of people who are in good quality accommodation.”

Mr O’Gorman said the Government would continue to engage with communities about plans to provide accommodation to house refugees and asylum applicants. He said some “bad faith actors” were “using the cloak of concern about lack of communication to push an explicitly right wing and, in some areas, an explicitly racist agenda”.

He indicated that as the war in Ukraine passes the one year mark, some of the additional accommodation needs to become “more of a congregated nature”.

“Again, if we weren’t responding to a crisis situation that wouldn’t be our preference but we are responding to a crisis situation and we will continue to make sure that people have access to the labour market, have access to schools, have access to those support services.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times