No guarantee of immediate accommodation, but Ireland will remain open to Ukrainians

Michael McGrath said the Irish system is clearly under strain and the government has to be honest with those arriving here seeking safety and sanctuary that there is a shortage of suitable accommodation
No guarantee of immediate accommodation, but Ireland will remain open to Ukrainians

Michael McGrath said the €400 accommodation payment and the accommodation pledge system are both set for review at a Cabinet sub-committee meeting on the Ukrainian accommodation crisis issue on Monday afternoon.

Ireland will remain open to people fleeing the war in Ukraine but there is no longer a guarantee of immediate accommodation, the Minister for Public Expenditure has said.

Michael McGrath said the Irish system is clearly under strain and the Government has to be honest with those arriving here seeking safety and sanctuary that there is a shortage of suitable accommodation.

“We have international obligations that we've signed up to at an EU level and we will fulfil our obligations and there won't be any declaration that Ireland is closed to Ukrainians. That's not going to happen,” Mr McGrath said.

“But we do also have to be honest with people who are considering coming to Ireland, that there is not a guarantee of immediate accommodation, and that the system is under strain.

“A number of people in recent days have not been accommodated in a way that we would like and we acknowledge that and so we have to be forthright and honest with the Ukrainian government, with the ambassador, with people who are considering coming here, that they are coming to Ireland at a time when there is strain.” 

But he said the €400 accommodation payment and the accommodation pledge system are both set for review at a Cabinet sub-committee meeting on the Ukrainian accommodation crisis issue on Monday afternoon.

Speaking in Cork, Mr McGrath said an estimated 55,000 people have arrived here from Ukraine since February, that 43,000 medical cards have been issued to Ukrainians, that around 12,000 Ukrainian children have enrolled in schools, and that some 42,000 people have been housed in state-run or funded accommodation.

The cost of the State response to the Ukraine crisis for the year has been estimated at around €1bn, he said.

He acknowledged the current pressures and strains but he said it was important to understand the overall context.

Under pressure

“There are about 7.7m Ukrainian refugees in Europe according to the UNHCR,” he said.

“This is the single largest mass movement of people since World War II and it isn’t just Ireland that is under pressure — many of our European neighbours are under pressure as well.

“We are doing the best we can and people have been remarkably generous in their understanding and support. And we recognise there are areas where we need to do better and we need to find more accommodation to make sure people have basic shelter and support and we will do that.” 

He said today’s Cabinet sub-committee meeting will explore every possible avenue to see what more can be done to ensure that the state provides “basic accommodation and support” for people who come here.

“But they do need to understand that there are limits to what we can do and we are facing real constraints and real pressures but we'll do the very, very best we can to meet the basic needs of people who come here,” he said.

He accepted that the accommodation pledge system, overseen by the Irish Red Cross, did not work as well as it should have for a period of time earlier this year but he said it did help place about 5,000 Ukrainians.

“And when we look at the number of households that are receiving the recognition payments, the €400 per month, we believe the actual number of people being accommodated informally, is significantly greater,” he said.

“It is on the agenda for discussion today to review how that system has worked, and what improvements need to be made and to see how it might play a role into the future to meet the needs that are there.” 

He added that the Government will also look closely at the €400 accommodation recognition payment to see if the current level is a constraint to accommodation offers coming forward.

“We do acknowledge that the cost of living is rising. Providing accommodation and opening your home to another person involves real costs, in terms of increased energy costs and so on.

“So we do have to assess whether or not the payment is set at the appropriate level.

"I don't think it's the most important factor. But it is something we do need to examine and we may well come to a view on that today.”

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