Proposals to time-limit housing for Ukrainians criticised by refugee groups

Taoiseach tells Dáil that State’s ability to accommodate and provide for refugees is ‘very much’ at its limit

Government proposals to time-limit the State’s provision of accommodation to those fleeing the Ukraine war are “problematic” and impractical, refugee support groups have said.

In the wake of a Cabinet row over the suggestions, which have been drawn up in the face of unprecedented pressure on the State’s system for receiving refugees and asylum seekers, Irish Refugee Council chief executive Nick Henderson warned against the proposals.

“Ethically it’s problematic, but as a policy idea it’s problematic because they don’t know if it’s going to be successful or not,” he said.

“I just don’t think it’s practical, where would people move on to?” he asked, questioning whether people would effectively be evicted from “welcome centres” planned under proposals drawn up by officials.


Immigrant Council of Ireland chief executive Brian Killoran warned: “If you are going to pull the trigger on changes, are we clear and are we sure they will not have an extremely negative impact if there are no mid- to long-term measures in place?”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil on Wednesday that the State’s ability to accommodate and provide for refugees and those seeking international protection was “very much” at its limit currently.

Mr Varadkar said the Government did not know if they would be in a position to provide accommodation and supports for another 30,000-50,000 people if that number came over the next year.

“Based on current numbers, it wouldn’t be far off that and we just don’t know if we’re able to provide that level of accommodation,” he said.

The proposals prompted conflict at Cabinet on Tuesday, with some Ministers objecting to Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman being allowed to outline the plan without seeking a formal Government decision or it being on the official agenda.

However, sources pushed back on the suggestion Mr O’Gorman had blindsided his colleagues. It is understood Mr O’Gorman first raised the potential need to tighten up the accommodation offering with the Coalition leaders in July, with a decision to push it back until after the summer recess.

Elsewhere, it is understood the Department of Education would have difficulty supporting any proposal for educating children in the welcome centres which would resemble “segregated schools”. A draft memo on the reforms includes a plan to provide some education provision in the centres but sources said there would be concerns in the Department of Education about anything that resembled approaches seen in the early days of direct provision. Concerns about the education of children were among the objections raised to the proposal by Tánaiste Micheál Martin at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

Elsewhere, the Ukrainian ambassador has said there are “no safe places in Ukraine today” and the displacement Russia’s invasion has caused is becoming “increasingly protracted”.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Larysa Gerasko said Ukrainians “take into mind” Ireland’s housing crisis and “greatly appreciate” Ireland’s support. “Almost 20 months into Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the displacement crisis it caused is becoming increasingly protracted,” she said.

Asked to comment on remarks made by a member of the Ukrainian community in Ireland on Newstalk Breakfast that some Ukrainians were in Ireland “fishing for opportunities” rather than fleeing war, Ms Gerasko said such a claim was “completely irrelevant when we talk about a war”.

More than the entire population of Ireland had been seeking safety abroad, including almost 97,000 who got temporary protection in Ireland, Ms Gerasko added.

But it was important to “deal with the cause of the problem first and then with the consequences”, she said, adding that if Ukraine lost the war, it would be a “clear signal to Russia that it can carry on to further terrorise the world”.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson is a reporter for The Irish Times

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times