How did State efforts to house Ukrainians turn to ‘crisis’ firefighting?

State provision of accommodation to Ukrainians and asylum-seekers is reaching crunch point

Many recent arrivals of refugees from the war in Ukraine or asylum seekers from other countries into Dublin Airport got no further than the old terminal building on the airport campus this week.

Instead of moving on into State-provided accommodation people were left to sleep on chairs, temporary camp beds and blow-up mattresses, in what one official described as a “crisis situation”.

The first big crunch point officials and NGOs had feared was coming down the tracks, where the numbers of Ukrainians and other asylum seekers coming into the State outstripped available accommodation, had arrived.

In a briefing on Wednesday, Department of Children and Equality officials said at a meeting of several NGOs that the State’s main reception centre for new arrivals, the Citywest facility in Dublin, had reached full capacity.


From Monday, people are to be accommodated in tents set up by the Defence Forces in its Gormanstown camp, Co Meath, which has space for up to 320 people.

Those involved in the State’s efforts to accommodate Ukrainians had noted a definite increase in appeals for any leads of additional housing from department officials in the last seven days. Available space in hotels to house Ukrainians and asylum seekers has largely been maxed out, which has led to a build-up of people in reception centres like Citywest.

The response to the severe shortage of beds has been to consider “anything and everything” when it comes to accommodation options, said one source.

Some in the NGO sector believe the State missed a key window to start preparing medium to long-term housing options back around April, which then might have begun to come on stream towards the end of the summer. A fast-track selection process to choose suppliers to build 500 modular homes for Ukrainian refugees is only expected to begin next week.

Initially following the Russian invasion of Ukraine it seemed the generosity of the Irish public would help house a substantial portion of refugees, with more than 25,000 pledges to put Ukrainians up in vacant homes or spare rooms.

In reality, between lengthy delays contacting prospective hosts; people entering into informal hosting arrangements, changing their minds, or the housing being deemed unsuitable, only a fraction of the offers materialised as viable.

The 25,000 figure was whittled down to 2,838 vacant properties and 6,550 offers of spare rooms, which officials continue to make their way through. So far 786 pledged properties have been used to house 2,181 Ukrainians.

The current squeeze is only set to get worse from late August onwards, when housing will have to be found for more than 4,000 Ukrainians living in student accommodation. In some cases contracts with student accommodation providers have already begun to come to an end, with the rest to finish in advance of the new college term in September.

Over the coming days department officials are focusing on trying to find a large property that can be turned into a further overflow reception centre, to relieve some pressure on the system and the Citywest facility.

However, it is well recognised the greater challenge will be to source more long-term housing to clear the bottleneck built up at present in temporary reception sites, or at the very least stop it from getting worse as people continue to arrive.