Around 800 hotel rooms being used to house refugees will be lost this week, at a time when the system accommodating asylum seekers is under “real pressure”, Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman has confirmed.
His officials have been scrambling to secure additional accommodation for refugees as Government contracts with hotels come to an end.
Ireland’s system for housing refugees is struggling to cope with the numbers arriving here, between refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine and a significant rise in the number of international protection applicants from other counties.
People in the latter category are ending up homeless, with the number of international protection applicants who are without accommodation standing at 408 as of Monday evening.
Mr O’Gorman was asked about the situation at a press conference on Tuesday.
He said the number of people without accommodation is “too high”, but added: “regrettably we will see growth in that number.
“We are under real pressure right now in terms of our ability to secure accommodation for international protection applicants.”
He said this is despite “very significant” efforts by his Department and the support on offer from elsewhere in Government.
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Mr O’Gorman highlighted how Tánaiste and Minister for Defence Micheál Martin has arranged for Mullingar Barracks to be used to accommodate international protection applicants as of last weekend.
However, he said: “We are facing a particularly difficult week this week in terms of the loss of hotel accommodation. So we are working hard to support and particularly to ensure that families are accommodated. But it’s going to remain challenging in the in the weeks and months ahead.”
Mr O’Gorman said he expects that “in and around 800 hotel rooms” will be lost this week.
“We’ve taken very extensive contingency measures. We’ve been able to open additional accommodation and will be opening more additional accommodation around the country.”
He said: “We do our best to meet our international obligations.
“We’ve gone from a situation where we were housing 7,500 refugees at the end of 2021 to over 20,000 now.
“I’m very upfront. We’re not meeting our obligations to everybody right now and we need to get ourselves in a position where we can... do that.”
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Mr O’Gorman said the Government has given “clear indications in all channels that we can that the housing situation is difficult in Ireland right now for international protection applicants...
“We’ve advised international protection applicants if they are in the position to stay where they are and stay safely that they should do so but we will continue to work across Government to secure additional accommodation.”
On Monday Irish Refugee Council chief executive Nick Henderson raised “grave concern” about the number of international protection applicants with no accommodation.
He told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that arrivals who cannot be housed are given €25 vouchers and may be directed to the Capuchin Day Centre - charity which helps homeless people.
Mr Henderson said they have been sent to Social Protection offices to apply for supports and from last week appear to be able to access the €38.80 weekly expenses allowance for adult asylum seekers.