Housing refugees from Greece, Italy and Lebanon may take months

It could be several more months before the Government secures extra accommodation to locate refugees and asylum seekers scheduled to come here from Greece, Italy and Lebanon.

Despite criticisms about accommodation shortages, plans are only now being drawn up to seek proposals from providers.

The Department of Justice has asked the Office of Government Procurement to notify prospective tenderers of its intention to seek offers of accommodation and services for around 600 people. However, a notice issued this week only says that tenders are expected to be sought “within the coming months”.

The accommodation problem was flagged by department officials to Charlie Flanagan when he became Justice Minister in June. They said securing suitable sites was slowing the rate of bringing asylum- seekers from Greece to Ireland.

So far, 459 of the 1,089 asylum-seekers which the country is committed to relocating from Greece have arrived. Another 440 just received clearance two days ago to travel here, following security checks in Greece by gardaí and representatives of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP).

It is unclear if they will be permitted to come here until further emergency reception and orientation centres have been established as initial locations for new arrivals. However, the Department of Justice said all those due from Greece are expected to arrive by year’s end.

Ireland made a commitment in 2015 to take in 3,800 refugees and asylum- seekers, over and above the normal rate of asylum applications, increasing to 4,000 last year when it was decided to accept 200 unaccompanied minors from Calais in France. The total includes a pledge to take 1,040 refugees by the end of 2017 from Lebanon and elsewhere, 785 of whom have already arrived.

As well as those due to be accepted from Greece, 623 are to be taken from Italy and 910 others from locations yet to be decided.

However, Ireland has not yet relocated anyone from Italy, a situation replicated in up to seven other EU countries. Efforts are continuing to resolve the difficulties which relate to Italy’s restrictions on gardaí and international counterparts interviewing prospective transferees.

Around 500 of the 1,244 people already arrived here under the resettlement and relocation strands of the IRPP are being housed in emergency reception and orientation centres in counties Kildare, Roscommon and Waterford.

The prior information notice issued by the Office of Government Procurement said it will require accommodation and ancillary services for around 600 people. When tenders are sought, it will be looking for premises that can cater for at least 80 residents each, with about 35 bedrooms or more. A Department of Justice spokesperson was unable to say if this reflected the typical size required or if there is any preference for geographical spread of locations.

“Any possible future location of an emergency reception and orientation centre would depend entirely on the response to the request for tenders,” he said.

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