The proportion of refugees from Ukraine taken in by some European counties compared to their populations is “very low” and there needs to be a conversation on what can be done to “spread the burden”, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Brian Stanley has said.
The Sinn Féin TD’s remarks came after the Department of Integration sent the PAC a detailed briefing on the refugee situation.
It included a breakdown of the number of Ukrainian refugees taken in by 28 European countries and their percentage compared to the overall population as of January.
It showed that there were 70,752 refugees from Ukraine in Ireland which represented 1.4 per cent of Ireland’s 5.1 million population.
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In percentage terms Ireland was roughly in the middle with some countries hosting a higher proportion of people from Ukraine, for example Czech Republic (4 per cent) and Poland (2.5 per cent).
Others had lower levels like France (0.1 per cent) and Belgium and the Netherlands both on 0.5 per cent.
France had 85,038 Ukrainian refugees compared to a population of 67.8 million.
Mr Stanley stressed that Ireland it is good that Ireland is “playing our part”.
He suggested that the low proportion of Ukrainian refugees compared to overall population in places like Greece (0.2 per cent) and Italy (0.3 per cent) was down to refugee crises involving people from Africa and the Middle East.
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But he said: “It’s clear that there’s a number of... northern European countries that haven’t been taking exactly the same amount”, highlighting France as “a case in point” and others where the proportion of Ukrainian refugees is “very low”.
Mr Stanley said: “None of what I’m saying should be taken as an argument for turning anyone away”.
He proposed that the PAC write to Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman to ask if he was flagging the issue with the Department of Foreign Affairs and with counterparts at European level.
Mr Stanley said Ireland’s housing situation is dire: “We want to help the people who are coming here. We don’t want people sleeping rough.”
He also said: “we probably have one of the worst housing crisis in Europe - it’s important that those countries that have capacity still, that that’s flagged up with them.”
Mr Stanley said Ireland’s welcome for Ukrainian refugees is “the right thing to do”. “I don’t want anything that I say to be construed in any other way.”
“But what I’m saying is that there does need to be a conversation with others in relation what can be done to spread the capacity or to spread the burden and to take up where there may be spare capacity.”
Figures from March show that around 52,600 refugees from Ukraine - and a further 20,000 people seeking international protection from different countries - are in State-provided accommodation.
County-by-county breakdown shows there were 14,872 people in Dublin when the number of Ukrainian refugees and international protection applicants are combined, 7,301 in Kerry, 6,101 in Cork, 5,874 in Donegal and 4,411 in Clare.
There has been a significant increase in non-Ukrainian asylum seekers arriving in Ireland over the last year.
The Department of Integration has been under massive pressure to source accommodation.
The PAC was told that between September 2022 and February 2023 55 new International Protection Accommodation Services centres have been opened to house up to 4,175 asylum seekers.