Refugee housing system under ‘real pressure’ as 500 Ukrainians arrive each week

Electric Picnic tents at Stradbally in use as Minister cites ‘pinch point’ with students returning to accommodation

As many as 750 Ukrainians are to be sheltered in Electric Picnic tents at Stradbally, Co Laois, in the coming weeks as the Government scrambles to find more longer-term accommodation. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

Ireland’s system for housing refugees is under “real pressure” with around 500 fleeing here from the war in Ukraine each week and as 3,000 beds used over the summer are returned for student accommodation.

Some 70,000 refugees from Ukraine and 23,000 people from other countries who are seeking international protection are now being housed by the State.

As many as 750 Ukrainians are to be sheltered in Electric Picnic tents at Stradbally, Co Laois, in the coming weeks as the Government scrambles to find more longer-term accommodation.

Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman provided an update on the situation during a a press conference in Dublin on Thursday.

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He said: “We were always going to face a pinch point coming into into August and September”.

Some 3,000 student beds that had been used over the summer are being returned for use by third-level students as the new college year begins.

He said “it was a huge benefit over the summer” but “we always knew it would come to an end and we put in place measures to address that”.

Mr O’Gorman said there has been an increase in the numbers arriving from Ukraine – a figure which now stands at around 500 per week.

He said: “That’s the context in which we’re using Stradbally ... It’s going to help us really get through the next number of weeks.”

The number of Ukrainians arriving in Ireland has fluctuated over time, with more than 1,000 a week arriving in December 2022. However, numbers had reduced since spring. The numbers stood at 650 per week during the summer before reaching current levels.

Mr O’Gorman said the Government has been “very clear with the Ukrainian Embassy” that there is “real pressure on the system right now” and “the difficulty in securing large amounts of additional accommodation.”

Mr O’Gorman said the use of the tents at Stradbally will end after six weeks but also conceded: “I can’t rule out further use of the of tented accommodation”.

He said for context the use of tents was for up to 750 people out of the 70,000 Ukrainians being housed and 300 international protection applicants out of the overall total of 23,000.

Mr O’Gorman said: “We’re looking at all options, both in terms of Ukrainian accommodation, and... International Protection accommodation as well.

“I’ll be bringing forward some proposals to Cabinet in terms, specifically of International Protection accommodation, over the next number of weeks, including a revised version of the White Paper.”

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The Government had published a White Paper on ending the use of the direct provision system but this is now being overhauled due to the large increase in the number of people seeking international protection over the last couple of years.

Mr O’Gorman did not offer a projection in terms of the number of Ukrainians expected to flee to Ireland by the end of the year but suggested it will in the thousands based on the current arrival figures.

He said: “as numbers continue to rise, it continues to be difficult to secure additional accommodation.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times