latest estimates | 

As many as 32,000 Ukrainian refugees could arrive in Ireland by Easter

Over 18,600 refugees have arrived in Ireland to date

Hugh O'Connell

AS many as 32,000 Ukrainian refugees could have arrived in Ireland by Easter weekend, the Cabinet has been told.

The latest estimates provided to ministers on Tuesday are that the number of arrivals by the weekend after next could be in the range 26,000 to 32,000 since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February.

Ministers were told that the primary challenge remains constraint on supply of suitable accommodation for people arriving here.

A Government spokesperson said that the Millstreet Arena in Cork, which can accommodate up to 400 refugees, will be available from April 18 with another 320 spaces available in the Gormanston Camp.

Over 18,600 refugees have arrived in Ireland to date with two-thirds of them female, one third male and around one third of all arrivals being children.

The seven-day average of arrivals is 580 people per day with the proportion of those seeking accommodation rising to 81pc.

According to the latest estimates, assuming all arrivals need emergency hotel accommodation then the cost of each cohort of 10,000 refugees has been estimated at around €500m per annum. Additional funding requirements will be met from the remaining €2.5bn in the Covid contingency fund.

The Department of Children is managing reception through short-term hotel accommodation and other accommodation including B&Bs and guesthouses.

The Cabinet was told that nearly 10,000 beds in hotels and guesthouses have been sourced and that there are 1,800 local authority beds that could also be made available.

There have also been 20,719 offers of accommodation to the Irish Red Cross which are currently being assessed.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien will hold an emergency summit of key stakeholders from the construction industry, estate agents and other bodies next week to discuss the medium to longer term response

Among the options being looked is a programme to refurbish and re-let some 2,500 vacant local authority units with approximately 6,000 brought back into use in the last two years.

Another option is the accelerated reform of the Nursing Home Support Scheme, also known as Fair Deal, so that nursing home residents can rent their homes if they wish to do so without financial penalty.

Mr O’Brien is also looking at options to restrict short-term letting of entire homes and issuing a call to identify empty units for rapid refurbishment for emergency accommodation and potentially as permanent housing and to identify inactivated planning permissions and potential vacant sites.

His officials are also examining the accelerated building of new homes using existing exemptions and emergency provisions in the Planning Act.

Meanwhile, Cabinet was also told that the Government has given €150,000 in funding to the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s office which is investigating alleged war crimes by Russia in Ukraine

The Department of Foreign Affairs is in ongoing contact with around 30 Irish citizens registered in Ukraine, but its capacity to provide practical consular assistance is limited, a spokesperson said.

Arrangements are being finalised to transfer the reception operation where refugees are processed from Dublin Airport to CityWest, while additional facilities are being put in place in Rosslare Port to cope with increased numbers of arrivals there.

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