The State is facing renewed pressure to find accommodation for those fleeing to Ireland from Ukraine and elsewhere, with a third of contracts with hotels due to expire before the end of the year.
Some 165 of 500 contracts with serviced accommodation providers – largely hotels – which provide about 30,000 bed spaces in total for Ukrainians will expire before the end of December, with growing pressure to find ways to move people out of hotels and into better medium-term options.
It is expected that, based on current trends, another 10,000 Ukrainians will arrive here before the end of the year, bringing the total to just fewer than 60,000. Some 90 per cent of those currently arriving are seeking temporary accommodation.
It is understood some accommodation contractors are seeking improved terms to sign up again. Official sources believe the current levels of people being accommodated in hotels are not sustainable, and are higher than in other European countries. But they are struggling to move people on to other forms of accommodation.
Officials want to see people – especially those who have been here longer – moving into modular or vacant homes, but believe as long as significant numbers need accommodation, hotels will be a significant component.
The Ukraine crisis has brought new strain on the system for receiving those fleeing here, but official sources say they are facing persistent and serious difficulties across the board in finding enough beds for those arriving here following the invasion, and international protection (IP) applicants.
Due to a surge in IP applicants and the consequences of the war in Ukraine, the State is providing short-term accommodation to about 50,000 more people than it did last year, equivalent to housing a town the size of Drogheda, and seven times the number of people as last year.
Officials are becoming more concerned about the difficulties in finding capacity for IP applicants, with a belief that accommodation contractors have a preference to house Ukrainians rather than other nationalities. Sources attributed this to an eagerness to help those fleeing the Russian invasion, but also a fear in local communities regarding accommodation of IP applicants. The profile of IP applicants is often different, sources said, to Ukrainian families, with more single men present and associated difficulties with community acceptance and integration.
It is understood that tented accommodation in Gormanston camp in Co Meath will close in the first week of October due to its unsuitability for winter conditions. Negotiations are under way with the Army to find alternative indoor accommodation as an alternative. It is expected a second “transit hub” similar to that at Citywest will be brought on stream before the end of the year.
The twin associated problems of housing refugees from the war and those who would usually enter into direct provision is forcing the Department of Integration to seek new alternatives. Officials are developing plans to use under-utilised office blocks for longer-term accommodation options for IP applicants, and are in dialogue with the Office of Public Works and other public sector bodies to this end.
In total, 48,700 people have arrived in Ireland fleeing the Ukraine conflict so far, with 38,000 accommodated by the State. Of them, 32,800 are in serviced accommodation, 900 are in emergency accommodation and 4,500 are in pledged accommodation, where progress remains slow in converting the tens of thousands of pledged spaces into actively used ones.
Since the beginning of this year, about 10,150 people have arrived in Ireland seeking international protection, the designation afforded to asylum seekers. There are 15,500 people with this status currently in accommodation, more than double the number at the same point last year.