Refugees intending to seek asylum in Ireland have been told to defer any travel plans amid a severe shortage of available accommodation.
The State now plans to keep the Citywest hub closed to international protection (IP) applicants seeking emergency shelter for at least another four days as the migration crisis enters an “extremely difficult phase”.
The Department of Children and Integration confirmed on Tuesday that adult IP applicants would not be accepted into the hub’s emergency accommodation area. Instead, they will have their information taken and will be contacted if accommodation becomes available.
A senior Government source said the length of closure will be longer than was previously the case, and those closures lasted between three and four days. Beyond this time period, the situation will depend on arrival numbers and the availability of accommodation.
The Irish Refugee Council described the emergency shelter pause as an “extremely alarming” and “unprecedented” situation. In the Dáil, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government was open to holding a full Dáil debate on the situation after Labour leader Ivana Bacik expressed concern about the pause.
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The State has now asked people who “are considering seeking refuge” in Ireland but are currently in places of safety “not to travel to Ireland at this time and to defer making travel arrangements” due to pressures related to the migration crisis intensifying.
The Department of Children said in social media posts that the request was being made due to “a severe shortage of available accommodation”.
There are particular pressures in accommodating single men from outside of Ukraine, while the department has also warned that the outlook for accommodation for people fleeing the war in Ukraine is “challenging”. There were some 830 international protection applicants in the Citywest facility on Tuesday morning and the Government said it had reached capacity.
The Citywest hub will remain operational for processing people arriving in the State but is not in a position to provide emergency overflow accommodation to new adult applicants.
The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) will still provide accommodation for families with children.
“Due to the nationwide shortage of available accommodation for international protection applicants, particularly single males, the transit hub has been providing emergency shelter while applicants wait to be assigned to accommodation,” the department said. “It is no longer possible to provide emergency shelter to IP adults as the transit hub has now reached capacity.”
Any applicants who do not secure accommodation when they arrive will have their details taken and will be contacted “as soon as accommodation becomes available”, the department said, adding that the policy will be kept under review.
The State has, since early last year, accommodated more than 73,000 people who have fled the war in Ukraine or made applications through the IP system.
“The response to the ongoing migration crisis has now entered an extremely difficult phase, with insufficient accommodation available nationwide for international protection applicants, and the outlook for accommodation for people fleeing the war in Ukraine is also challenging,” the department said.
Minister for Children and Integration Roderic O’Gorman warned last week that further closures of the Citywest facility were coming down the track, with Ministers preparing for a scenario where the same number of refugees arrives into Ireland this year as last.
Modelling scenarios have been presented to Ministers which detail how an extra 19,450 refugees could arrive in Ireland by the end of March, the equivalent of some 1,220 a week. If this pattern held for the rest of the year, the total number of arrivals this year could reach 65,000.
Government sources would not be drawn on Tuesday on whether additional security measures would be needed at Citywest, after three people were taken to hospital with minor injuries on Monday evening following a disturbance involving a group of men. Staff in the Department of Justice and Department of Social Protection were understood to have left the facility while a clean-up took place yesterday morning.