Government identifies 500 buildings to help house Ukrainian refugees

The Government has identified about 500 buildings that could be used to house some of the tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees expected to come to Ireland.

Cabinet was told on Tuesday morning that there will be a meeting with builders on accommodation for refugees fleeing the Russian invasion, while the Department of Housing is talking to local authorities about what else they can do, and the Office of Public Works and the HSE are looking at State-owned sites.

Citywest, Millstreet Arena, the National Show Centre and land at Gormanstown owned by the Defence Forces are also being considered for use, Ministers heard.

The Cabinet meeting was chaired via Zoom by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who is isolating in Washington DC following his positive Covid-19 test last week.

At a briefing after the meeting, Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman said about 500 buildings have been identified by local authorities which could house refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Mr O’Gorman, whose department is responisble for sourcing accommodation for those arriving into the country in the first instance, said authorities had put together a list of 500 properties that could be used.

He said the department of housing had asked the local authorities for buildings that could be repurposed and refurbished.

Asked if these would be single dwellings or larger centres, he said he had not seen the list but “larger buildings [WERE]the focus of the ask”.

Mr O’Gorman said that based on the number of people who have fled Ukraine so far – some 3.4 million – about 68,000 would make their way to Ireland.

“Our response has initially been focused on getting accommodation for people as they arrive in the country… but we are looking at ways we can accommodate people in the medium to long term”.

Minister for Social ProtectionHeather Humphreys confirmed that people hosting refugees would not have their social welfare payments affected.

She said that, for example, someone in receipt of the living alone allowance would not lose their entitlement. However, she indicated the Government had not given consideration at this stage to providing help to households hosting refugees with the cost of doing so.

The price of consumer staples like bread is set to be driven up by the war in Ukraine, the Cabinet was also warned.

Ministers were told that the cost of these products, along with rising energy prices, is the most pressing issue facing consumers arising from the crisis caused by the Russian invasion.

Earlier, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said Ireland could take in as many as 200,000 refugees fleeing the war in Ukranie,

Mr McConalogue said that Ireland has no option but to “reach out to those of our fellow European citizens who are displaced who have nowhere else to go.”

“We have to do our best”, said Mr McConalogue acknowledging to RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that the task would be challenging.

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