Ireland planning for arrival of up to 200,000 Ukrainian refugees

During the weekly Cabinet meeting ministers were told that a nationwide search for suitable properties is now underway
Ireland planning for arrival of up to 200,000 Ukrainian refugees

79-year-old Adam Petrovsky is greeted by his niece Helena as he arrived at the Kingsley Hotel in Cork with wife Halyna, from Ukraine. Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Ireland can expect to take in at least 68,000 people from Ukraine but that the number could hit 200,000, Government ministers have said.

During the weekly Cabinet meeting, at which the humanitarian response to the Ukraine crisis dominated, ministers were told that a nationwide search for suitable properties is underway.

This encompasses hotels, BnBs, guest houses, vacant homes, offers for spare rooms from families, community centres, vacant state properties, old convents and monasteries.

About 500 buildings could be used to house some of the tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees expected to come here, Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman said.

As revealed by the Irish Examiner on Tuesday morning, ministers were informed that there will be a meeting with builders on accommodation for refugees fleeing the Russian invasion.

Major venues such as Citywest, Millstreet Arena, the National Show Centre which previously operated at Covid testing and treatments centres will now be repurposed as emergency accommodation centres.

Ministers were also told that land at Defence Forces land at Gormanstown, North Dublin is also being examined.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin attended the meeting virtually on his last day of forced isolation in Washington DC following his positive Covid-19 test result.

Speaking to reporters, Mr O’Gorman, whose department is driving the State’s response to the influx of displaced people, said authorities have identified about 500 properties that are suitable for use.

The department of housing had asked the 31 local authorities across the country for buildings that could be repurposed and refurbished.

Asked if these would be single dwellings or larger centres, he said he had not seen the list but “larger buildings [were] the focus of the ask”.

He said based on the number of people who have already fled Ukraine – about 3.4 million - about 68,000 would make their way to Ireland.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys confirmed that people hosting refugees would not have their social welfare payments affected.

As of last night, 10,147 Ukrainians have arrived into Ireland and of those roughly 4,100 of those have sought accommodation from the State.

A growing number of unaccompanied minors are arriving into Ireland from Ukraine and Tusla are currently providing assistance and accommodation to 22 minors who came by themselves.

More than 20,000 pledges of accommodation have been made via the Irish Red Cross portal with about 4,000 of those are related to vacant properties.

Mr O’Gorman said the initial focus will be on the vacant units and subsequently the State will engage with those people who are offering to share accommodation, such as spare rooms.

Ms Humphreys said at this stage, these offers from the public are being made on a voluntary basis and there is no talk at present of the government seeking to subsidise families who take Ukrainian nationals into their homes.

MS Humphreys said that so far, 7,326 people arriving from Ukraine have now been issued with PPS numbers. And the vast majority of those, 88%, are women and children, she said.

Of those 3,007 are women, 2,727 are children and the remaining 892 are men.

Ireland is providing €20 million in humanitarian assistance, which is supporting the UN and the Red Cross to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and in neighbouring countries.

The HSE has provided medical supplies through the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism and the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Rapid Response Register has been activated, making skilled humanitarians available at short notice to the UN system.

Given the current circumstances in Ukraine, the Department of Foreign Affairs continues to advise Irish citizens there to shelter in a secure place, and only to consider leaving Ukraine if they judge it safe to do so.

In a statement, the Government said it also considered a number of challenges facing the economy, notably the impact on households, businesses, agriculture and industry of rising energy prices.

“Russia’s war on Ukraine has sparked further energy price increases and brought unprecedented volatility to energy markets. This is feeding through to retail price increases for all consumers. 

"The impact on low income households is a matter of particular concern for the Government and it will continue to examine what measures may be taken to manage the impact of rising energy prices,” the statement said.

Cabinet also approved a temporary, targeted intervention package for the tillage sector to the value of €12.2 million in response to the impact on farming on the crisis in Ukraine.

The package will support the production of more native grain and protein crops, and crops with a low demand for chemical fertiliser, which will contribute towards the expected deficit in these crops and help farmers to deal with challenges related to the availability and price of animal feed and fertilisers

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