Plans for floating hotels for asylum seekers put on hold for the immediate future

Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman said earlier this year his department was pursuing the option but tendering unlikely to proceed for some time

A scheme to provide floating accommodation for asylum seekers has been put on the back burner, with officials saying there are no immediate plans to tender for ships or barges that would provide this service.

In May, Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman said his department was progressing with a plan to deliver 1,500 extra bed spaces for those seeking international protection by using large ships or barges that had accommodation capacity, such as cruise liners.

Mr O’Gorman said that officials in his department had carried out detailed investigation and analysis of its use and had also consulted the Maritime Unit in the Department of Transport.

“The department is expected to publish a request for tender on extenders in the coming weeks,” Mr O’Gorman said in response to a parliamentary question at the end of May.


“It is envisaged that circa 1,500 bed spaces will be created from this accommodation type.”

However, on Thursday the Department of Children and Integration said that the tender was not likely to be awarded “in the immediate future”.

“Officials are still working through the various legal and regulatory issues associated with them.”

The disclosure comes at a time when the numbers of people seeking international protection arriving into Ireland remains high in a historical context, with between 1,500 to 2,000 new temporary refugees from Ukraine arriving into the State each month.

The total number of Ukrainians who have come to Ireland since the outbreak of war in March 2022 is now more than 92,500. Separately, more than 20,000 people have sought international protection during 2022 and so far in 2023.

Bell tents used at the Electric Picnic festival in Stradbally, Co Laois have been used since Monday to house as many as 750 Ukrainian refugees. They are to be used for a period of six weeks.

Floating accommodation, or “floatels”, were used in Scotland during 2022 using two former cruise ships. Earlier this summer the British government began accommodating 500 single men on a large ship berthed in Portland, Dorset on the south coast of England. The move was controversial and the ship was dubbed the Portland prison.

Earlier this summer, several sites were under consideration for berthing the “floatels”, including Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin. The Port of Cork confirmed Horgan’s Quay and Penrose Quay had been identified as possible locations for accommodation.

There was not unanimous backing for the idea within Cabinet. Minister for Finance Michael McGrath said his preference was to use existing building stocks.

The latest figures from the Department of Justice show that more than 100,000 people have arrived into Ireland in 2022 and 2023 as temporary refugees from Ukraine, or people from other countries seeking temporary protection.

So far in 2023, 22,615 refugees from Ukraine have come to Ireland, bringing the total number to 92,554. A total of 7,688 people have applied for asylum in Ireland during 2023. This is a drop of 1,000 compared to the figures for 2022, but is still historically high.

Mr O’Gorman provided an update on the situation regarding accommodation for Ukrainians and international protection applicants during a press conference in Dublin on Thursday.

He said: “We were always going to face a pinch point coming in to 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.

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 about “the difficulty in securing large amounts of additional accommodation”.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times