Huge shortfall in beds for refugees predicted as hotels switch focus to tourists

Government sources say reforms in UK could result in more refugees heading to Ireland

A shortfall of more than 1,200 beds for refugees is predicted by the middle of April as hotels switch back to providing spaces for tourists, according to papers prepared for Government Ministers in advance of talks planned for Thursday.

Ministers are also to be told that the State is now facing 87 legal challenges over its alleged failure to comply with its requirement to accommodate refugees.

According to briefing documents distributed for a Cabinet subcommittee meeting on refugee accommodation, the shortfall will be an estimated 1,228 by the middle of April.

The briefing papers outline a system under constant stress – including a description of a “serious fight between two ethnic groups” involving 140 men which broke out earlier this month in Citywest transit hub, which is over capacity and remains closed to new arrivals. The fight led to five hospitalisations.


There will also be a renewed effort planned to encourage those living in direct provision with leave to remain in the State to move out of the centres in which they are living.

Sources said the plan is to send another 150 letters to people in this category. Ministers are also due to discuss the time frame for rolling out modular accommodation at Columb Barracks in Athlone.

It comes as efforts continue to find new accommodation for refugees, both from Ukraine and elsewhere, who have been staying in hotels that are not extending their State contracts.

A spokesman for Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman said that the Department is facing “ongoing and severe difficulties in acquiring accommodation for International Protection applicants”.

A number of weeks ago, the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) contacted residents in four hotels – comprising a total of 1,400 people – to tell them that due to contracts ending, they would be reaccommodated “where possible”.

“IPAS has now secured accommodation for all those affected by contracts ending. The moves will take place over the coming weeks to different locations,” the spokesman said. “Intensive efforts are being undertaken daily by staff in [the Department] to source emergency accommodation. However, producing enough bed space to keep pace with incoming arrivals remains extremely challenging, leading to very significant shortages”.

Senior Government sources also expressed concern that reforms reportedly planned in the UK, including the building of camps on RAF bases and the use of barges for accomodation, could drive more refugees towards Ireland for as long as hotels are on offer here.

Another senior Coalition source said people accommodated in Killarney have to be transferred elsewhere as the town focuses on tourism again in anticipation of the peak summer season. Earlier this week, Fáilte Ireland warned that 32 per cent of non-Dublin tourism accommodation was contracted out to the State, and that tourism businesses outside the accommodation sector faced losing €1.1 billion in revenue this summer.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

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