Financial support | 

Taoiseach says cash help for people to take in Ukrainian refugees 'is on cards'

On Tuesday ministers were told how with on average of 580 refugees arriving per day, around 5,000 additional beds will be needed by Easter

Taoiseach Micheal Martin

Hugh O'Connell

Micheál Martin has said the Government will look at offering financial support to householders in return for accommodating refugees from Ukraine.

The Taoiseach said the immediate focus was on working through more than 20,000 pledges of accommodation that have been made to the Irish Red Cross. But nothing was being ruled out when it came to financial assistance for households now faced with increased living costs, such as utilities, because there were more people in their home.

The Irish Refugee Council last week urged the Government to give holiday-home owners €300 to €400 a month so their properties to be used by refugees amid fears the beds booked by the state in hotels may soon run out.

On Tuesday ministers were told how with on average of 580 refugees arriving per day, around 5,000 additional beds will be needed by Easter, which is next weekend, to meet demand. Shortages of accommodation are expected within days.

Mr Martin told the Sunday World how supporting households would be considered.

“Well, nothing has been ruled out in that regard. I think in the first instance what I would like to see is to go through the existing pledges that have been made. I think we have to put more resources behind that exercise, and then take it from there,” he said on a visit to Helsinki on Friday.

“Certainly, we will look at all possibilities around that, particularly in terms of freeing up existing capacity within the existing housing stock.”

The British government is offering £350 (€420) a month to UK households to take in refugees. Cabinet was told last week 20,719 offers of accommodation were made to the Red Cross but as much as 60pc of these may be unsuitable.

Across the Coalition there are growing concerns of space in State-funded or provided accommodation running out within days with the number of daily arrivals of refugees fleeing the war exceeding 600 twice last week. The number arrivals on Friday had dropped to 432, according to the Department of Justice figures.

The Cabinet was secretly warned last week how the State’s capacity to house Ukrainian refugees was nearing exhaustion, and as many as 10,000 people could have no accommodation at all by the end of the month. This will be on top of those already identified across hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses, State facilities and from people who have pledged vacant homes and rooms.

Asked about the UK scheme to pay households £350 per month, Mr Martin said: “We have to take the full implications of such an initiative, because there are potential dangers on that front as well.

“We’ve taken advice from the Department of Children in particular and, notwithstanding the uniqueness insofar as the sheer volume of refugees that have come into the country, we have to be very careful that everything we do is with a view to protecting all refugees who come in.”

Ukrainian refugees in Medyka, Poland, last week queue to get the bus after crossing the Ukraine-Poland border. Picture by Kacper Pempel

Mr Martin has faced calls from Louth Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick in the Dáil to provide support to households.

Mr Fitzpatrick said he had been approached by families, some of whom had driven to the airport to offer accommodation, who now felt isolated with no support.

The householders who took in refugees would not hesitate to do so again, he said. “But they have very little if any contact from the relevant Government departments and no support,” the TD said.

On Friday, Mr Martin acknowledged this point.

“Initially this was not a monetary issue, but I do understand that is a fair point that Deputy Fitzpatrick raised in the Dáil in terms of people coming under increasing costs arising from that; because of the protective measures, the directive from the European Union, we provide social supports and income to refugees,” he said.

“That said, we will consider all of those issues, but in the immediate term the focus will be on getting through all of those pledges and having an assessment then in terms of what is available and what is not available.”

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