By Cate McCurry, PA
The Tánaiste said the Government is considering “all options” to find accommodation for Ukrainian refugees as thousands will be moved out of student campuses over the coming weeks.
Leo Varadkar said the Government is doing its best to accommodate Ukrainian refugees, with Ireland taking in around 1 per cent of Ukrainians who have fled the war.
There are more than 4,000 refugees staying in student accommodation across the country.
Asked what the Government is doing to secure housing and rooms for those who will be moved out in the coming weeks, Mr Varadkar said it is “looking at all options”.
“We shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture here,” Mr Varadkar added.
“Europe is at war. There’s a terrible war happening on our continent. Five million Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes.
“That’s roughly the entire population of the State and they’ve now been dispersed across Europe, and roughly 1 per cent of them have come to Ireland.
“I believe we’ve an obligation to do our part and to do the best we can to accommodate those people as best we can.
“There isn’t a country in Europe that had 50,000 or 100,000 vacant properties in case of war happened. That’s just not how the world works.
“We’re doing the best we can to accommodate people as best we can in all sorts of different settings, whether it’s rented accommodation, whether it’s hotels and B&Bs, whether it’s modular accommodation, or whether it’s in people’s homes, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar also said that the target of ending the direct provision system by the end of 2024 remains in place.
The system, set up more than 20 years ago, provides accommodation centres for asylum seekers and is run by for-profit companies.
It has been heavily criticised by organisations including the UN, Amnesty International and the Council of Europe in that time.
In February last year, the Government published its White Paper to replace the centres with an international protection system by 2024.
Mr Varadkar said the system is currently full and has been for a long time.
“There are actually a lot of people now in direct provision that have status in Ireland, but continued to live in direct provision because they haven’t moved out yet, they haven’t found somewhere to rent,” Mr Varadkar said.
“That’s part of the difficulty, and also it is important to bear in mind always that direct provision is not compulsory.
“Lots of people come to the country who claim asylum, now work, provide their own accommodation, stay with friends.
“It’s a service that the Government offers. We’re trying to improve the quality of that all the time.
“The target remains to get to the situation where we replace direct provision with own-door accommodation in all cases, but that’s going to be difficult to achieve. That’s the truth of it.
“The fact that we’ve accommodated 40,000 or so people from Ukraine in the past few months, many more likely to come, makes it more difficult.
“If there is a country in the world that’s able to provide own-door self-catering accommodation for everyone who arrives within a few weeks, I don’t know where that country is. It’s a very difficult thing to achieve.”