The Government intends to put up refugees on sleeping bags and mattresses on the floors of large buildings, as available accommodation for new arrivals seeking asylum here has run out.
Ministers have been asked to find “sports centres… conference facilities, arts centres, student leisure centres [and] any other large buildings that are deemed safe” in order to house refugees.
“What is needed are large halls where camp beds, mattresses, sleeping bags could be set out for people,” Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman wrote to all Ministers on Thursday evening in a desperate plea for assistance.
“The response to the ongoing migration crisis has entered an extremely difficult phase with no apparent accommodation at scale for international protection applicants available into the short term to medium term,” Mr O’Gorman wrote.
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His department is now “urgently seeking facilities in all vacant buildings that could be used to accommodate people and which are available immediately”, his letter states.
“In order to minimise the possibility that those in need will be left without accommodation in the short to medium term, I am asking for your urgent assistance in sourcing, from your sector or stakeholders, any large building (capacity of 50-100 or greater) that can be utilised by my department immediately to shelter new arrivals in the immediate term,” Mr O’Gorman wrote.
He suggests a series of different types of buildings, including sports centres “which have access to showers” but also any other kind of large building where people could sleep on camp beds and mattresses.
“Facilities,” he said, “can be located anywhere in the country.”
Mr O’Gorman’s plea comes as the State strains under the burden of dealing with an influx of refugees from the war in Ukraine, but also with a surge in the number of people arriving from elsewhere seeking asylum here.
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There are now 74,000 refugees in State accommodation, compared to 7,500 this time last year. This includes almost 54,000 Ukrainians and almost 20,000 people seeking asylum.
Under an EU agreement, people fleeing the war in Ukraine are automatically granted temporary refugee status here on arrival. Others seeking asylum – or international protection – are entitled to remain here while their claim for asylum is processed.
The Government has decided that it cannot guarantee accommodation to non-Ukrainian arrivals seeking asylum here, in a bid to discourage people from coming.
State facilities such as the hub at Citywest have become inundated in recent months and closed to new arrivals, sometimes leaving new asylum seekers with nowhere to stay.