Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has said efforts are being made to ensure the provision of accommodation for Ukrainian refugees and others seeking international protection is accelerated to meet demand.
The number of people in Direct Provision last year was 6,500, he told RTÉ Radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show, adding that there are now 35,000 people from Ukraine and elsewhere seeking protection, indicating the scale of increased demand, he said.
The Cabinet’s subcommittee on Ukraine will meet on Monday afternoon to discuss the accommodation situation, Mr O'Gorman said, adding the response to date had been slower than he would have liked.
The Minister acknowledged there had been a drop in the number of household pledges for accommodation. In many cases this had been when it became obvious that such pledges could be long term as the war continued.
He also explained the proposed payment of €400 per month will be legislated for soon and will be backdated to the date on which families arrived.
Mr O’Gorman said 500 modular homes were due to come on stream on public lands across the country while further accommodation would come from refurbished buildings.
The Minister added that his department will meet the cost of accommodating children from Ukraine who had been brought to Co Mayo by a charity. However, he cautioned that the manner in which this case had been handled was “not the way to proceed”, explaining his department had been presented with a bill without prior engagement.
Issues involving children needed to include the relevant authorities to ensure important social supports, he said, as there are strict guidelines for dealing with underage children.
Mr O’Gorman acknowledged there were two different systems for dealing with people fleeing the war in Ukraine and those seeking international protection, which is the same through Europe, he said.
He added that the Government is doing its best to address the pressures on the system.
The Minister's comments come after the Irish Red Cross said the “very complex process” of placing Ukrainian refugees with families who pledged accommodation will ramp up in the coming weeks.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland, the group's secretary general Liam O’Dwyer said the plan is to have up to 6,000 people in pledged accommodation by the end of the summer.
To date 3,700 invitations for Garda vetting have been sent to the 6,500 households who pledged accommodation, he explained. Already, 533 have been approved and are now in the system for placement.
Mr O’Dwyer added there is now a “matching” process in place at City West where arrivals can be linked with households who pledged accommodation.
At present, “the vast majority” of Ukrainian refugees are in Government emergency accommodation, such as hotels or former religious institutions, while a further 7,500 are in “informal” settings, such as with friends and family, he said.
Mr O’Dwyer acknowledged criticism that the process was slow, describing it as a “a fair comment”, but added that Garda vetting was a very complex process where every member of a household had to be vetted.
This is an emergency situation and as more people arrived modular situations could become available and household pledges would increase capacity, he said.
When asked if it would be necessary for new arrivals to go to tented villages once student accommodation was no longer available, Mr O’Dwyer said he thought pledged accommodation would be accessible by the end of the summer.