Thousands of extra refugees and asylum seekers are expected to arrive in Ireland before the end of this year and the Government does not have a clear “line of sight” to available beds, Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman has warned.
It comes as the Cabinet approved a €1 billion supplementary budget for his department to meet costs associated with accommodating Ukrainian people fleeing the war and those seeking international protection. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Mr O’Gorman further warned that the use of tents as accommodation is likely to continue, despite winter months approaching.
He said that last week there were 650 arrivals from Ukraine and about 280 international protection applicants who also arrived.
“Both are significant and these are people that need to be accommodated. You can model today’s figures, build in last week’s figures and depending on the week you’ve had, the figures can be something different. We have seen it zig-zag up and down across the summer on both sides. But on any realistic examination, we are going to need thousands more beds to take us towards the end of the year. That is what our department is working to secure,” he said.
“We don’t have line of sight to all those beds. We are working to do it, but there is real pressure there,” he said.
There have been reports of poor conditions in the tented accommodation being offered to refugees. Mr O’Gorman said he does not have any estimate on the extra number of tents that will be offered.
“I will be clear that I want to have the minimum number of tents as possible and I would like that figure to be zero but I just have to recognise in the context of the real challenges we are under, we saw what happened earlier this year what happened when we weren’t able to provide accommodation for people at all. That is the absolute worst circumstance because when we have tented accommodation and ancillary services surrounding that, at least people have shelter and security.”
The Minister said he wants to reduce the number in tents but anticipates it will remain high in the short term. There are about 800 people in tented accommodation out of a total figure of 93,000 people who have been given accommodation across the board.
Speaking about the €1 billion supplementary budget, Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said the money was coming from an emergency fund set aside by the Government in last year’s budget.
“The Government set aside funds in Budget 2023 to meet non-core pressures, such as this, and this supplementary estimate will be met through that contingency. This funding will continue to support the State’s humanitarian response to the Ukraine crisis.
“The State has had to work extremely hard to manage the significant influx of people from Ukraine since the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Minister O’Gorman and his officials have played a central role in this response in terms of the provision of accommodation.
“The past year and a half has also seen a significant increase in the number of people arriving into the country seeking international protection. In January 2022, our international protection accommodation system had 8,600 people in it. It now has 23,200. This is a trend being experienced across the EU with over half a million asylum applications being received by EU countries, in the first half of 2023,” he said.