More than 50,000 Ukrainian refugees are expected to arrive in Ireland by the end of this month as the country’s housing supply is already stressed.
The number of Ukrainians in Ireland had surpassed 49,900 as of Tuesday, said a spokesperson at the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. The number of individuals arriving is not expected to lessen this autumn as the country’s housing woes continue.
“There’s no expectation that arrivals will abate as we enter the autumn, and the outlook for the availability of suitable accommodation is extremely challenging,” a Department spokesperson told Babylon.
The majority of the nearly 50,000 Ukrainian refugees have sought State-coordinated housing. More than 38,770 individuals have requested this housing, according to the Department. Separately, individuals seeking asylum, which currently stand at more than 15,000, are also being housed by the State.
Roughly 500 housing contracts have provided more than 31,000 refugees with beds in places like hotels, hostels and repurposed facilities. “To date just under 4,500 beneficiaries have been housed in pledged accommodation offered by the Irish public,” the spokesperson said.
The increased demand for housing from the arrival of Ukrainians in Ireland and the sharp increase in asylum seekers have been met with “plummeting” accommodation standards like tented housing, said John Lannon, the CEO of Doras, a nonprofit that supports migrants and refugees.
Some housing for refugees is well-situated in city centres and accessible to work, while other facilities are remote, overcrowded or not fully ready for the refugees, he told Babylon.
“It’s difficult for people to transfer, move, so for example if you do get employment or if you have an education lined up somewhere, being able to stay where your employment or education is or move to where your education or employment is, is difficult,” Lannon said.
Local students have also been caught up in the countrywide struggle for housing.
Some university students have taken out loans or resorted to living in their cars because of the high cost and lack of housing available, as the Irish Examiner reported earlier this month. Thousands of refugees had been housed in student accommodation before autumn classes began.
Nearly 5,000 Ukrainian refugees in student housing were relocated by mid-September, according to the Department. The contracts with the student housing facilities had expired, the spokesperson told Babylon.
Accommodating Ukrainians long term
Demand is likely to be stretched further in the coming months. RTÉ reported last week that Ireland could be home to nearly 60,000 Ukrainians late this year. Additionally, housing at the Gormanstown Army Camp in County Meath, which had been housing 190 refugees in tents, will close in October to prepare for winter.
It’s “uncertain” how much housing will be needed for the Ukrainians by the end of the year, the spokesperson told Babylon. However, there is expected to be enough housing for all the refugees, Lannon said.
“The Department do say that based on their projections, which we don’t disagree with, that they will be able to provide accommodation for all Ukrainians and that they won’t need to rely on tented accommodation,” he said.
The number of arriving refugees has slowed to roughly 700 per week, Lannon said, but the overabundance of people in temporary housing makes it hard for them to integrate, find a job and continue in school, he said. The government must shift from “crisis managing” the refugee situation to more long term and coordinated planning, Lannon told Babylon.
“If we look towards, even going to next May, for example,” he said. “If people cannot return to Ukraine, the war is still ongoing in some parts of the country, then we need to be able to provide accommodation that’s suitable to the needs of the people who are here.”
Doras, as part of the Ukrainian Civil Society Forum, has called for changes like the creation of a refugee agency in Ireland and a mandate on the housing agency to create long term accommodation for refugees.
Planning for the coming months continues, the Department spokesperson said, as “no stone has been left unturned when it comes to procuring accommodation.”
“The Department continues to work intensively with cross-Departmental colleagues as part of the whole-of-Government response to this highly pressurised situation to bring forward further solutions,” the spokesperson wrote.