‘News to me’ | 

Idea Ukrainian refugees turning down accommodation risks ‘dangerous narrative’ says Labour TD

“I don’t know where it’s come from, I don’t know anybody who has told me or anybody that there’s an issue with Ukrainians turning down accommodation’

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Seoirse MulgrewIndependent.ie

An Opposition TD has said the suggestion that Ukrainian refugees are refusing accommodation offers being made to them risks creating a “dangerous narrative”.

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin was responding after the Government agreed a new policy which would mean refugees would only be made one offer of accommodation.

Speaking on Saturdauy with Katie Hannon on RTÉ Radio One, Minister of State at the Department of Finance Seán Fleming said asylum seekers seeking accommodation should “take the offer that’s available” and said people must have a “good reason” to refuse a first offer of accommodation.

However, Mr Ó Ríordáin questioned whether refugees were in fact turning down accommodation and warned a Government move on the issue risked publicising a problem that does not exist.

It comes as the Government is set to introduce a refusal policy whereby Ukrainian refugees – of whom there are now more than 50,000 in Ireland - will be made one accommodation offer only.

The Government held an incorporeal meeting on Friday and signed off on hotel contract changes which will provide bed-only accommodation for Ukrainians, as it struggles with the accommodation crisis.

It will also mean Ukrainian refugees will be means tested before they can qualify for healthcare and further education supports.

Mr Fleming said the Government and people of Ireland have responded “as best we can” to the war in Ukraine.

“We’re in a situation where the State and the people of Ireland collectively have responded as best we can, and we will continue to do more,” he said.

“Now what’s emerging as the months have gone by is many of these people we now know won’t be going quickly back to Ukraine, and now they’re going to be here for a much longer period than was anticipated when the war started.

“Now the Government is saying we have to deal with them in terms of normal mainstream accommodation for people who need housing and in those situations anybody on the housing list in Ireland does get an offer of accommodation, you won’t get a second offer the following week if you don’t like your first offer. You will get a second offer in due course.

“I have dealt with a number of these cases and many of these cases there might be a good reason, there might be a child with special needs and in those circumstances yes those rules would not apply and they’re not applying at the moment,” he said.

“But a person would have to have a reasonable reason not to accept the first offer of accommodation.”

Labour TD and party spokesperson on Justice and Education Mr Ó Ríordáin said the suggestion that Ukrainian refugees are turning down offers of accommodation is “news to me”.

“This is a dangerous narrative, and I don’t know where it’s come from, I don’t know anybody who has told me or anybody that there’s an issue with Ukrainians turning down accommodation,” he said.

“I think government want to be very careful that this doesn’t seep into a minority opinion which would come back to us as politicians.

“I would have strong criticism in terms of the entire system, government were right to take integration and asylum out of the Department of Justice because there was a systemic unsympathetic view in that department.

“So, we’ve a new department with Roderic O’Gorman, I think other avenues could have been exhausted in previous months like modular housing. There are issues around the amount of accommodation that was offered from private citizens.

“We have a moral and historical obligation from our own country’s history to be as welcoming as possible. In terms of the issues that I’m dealing with now, once you disproportionally depend on the private sector for any housing, then you’re going to run into problems.”

Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan said there needs to be a “whole of government approach” to deal with the issue of emergency accommodation.

“It’s dangerous to be conflating the social housing list and the refugee crisis and emergency accommodation and it needs to be clear that they’re two very separate issues,” she said.

“Nobody is denying that the numbers that have come in in recent times is a huge challenge for the Government but back in February they were talking about 200,000 refugees coming from Ukraine alone so there’s been a failure to plan and there hasn’t been an all of government approach.

“It seems that Roderic O’Gorman’s department is expected to do all of the lifting where in fact what you need is a whole of government approach. We need the Minister for Housing, Education and Health to be on board.”

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