Taoiseach Micheál Martin has defended the Irish government’s response to housing shortages for Ukrainian refugees after several Ukrainian men were forced to sleep at Dublin Airport on Friday after being told there were no accommodation for them.
Martin admitted it was ‘unsatisfactory’ that Ukrainian refugees were left homeless on Friday, but said it was ‘unfair’ to suggest the Irish government should have foreseen an increased need for lodging.
The Department for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth said 33 refugees had been processed and granted temporary protected status at Dublin’s Citywest Hub. However, the 33 refugees were turned back for lack of accommodation.
The 33 refugees were all single men, the department said.
The news comes shortly after the Irish government admitted it could not rule out Ukrainian refugees ending up rough sleeping due to a housing shortage.
Speaking ahead of the Cairde Fáil dinner, the Taoiseach revealed the current number of refugees arriving in Ireland was “not supposed” to be that high.
“Certainly not until the summer, they weren’t expected to reach higher levels than what we have now,” Martin said.
“And the state has not been slow. The state has been remarkably quick, I would say, in terms of responding to a war situation, the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II.
“We have witnessed the displacement of well over six million people and Ireland, in terms of percentage per capita, has responded in my view, in an extraordinary way, in an unprecedented way, in terms of numbers that we have already welcomed.
“Just because someone said there could be 200,000 doesn’t mean you magically created 200,000 spaces overnight.”
On March 22, Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue predicted that up to 200,000 Ukrainian refugees could arrive in Ireland after the outbreak of war in Ukraine. On the same day, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar predicted that 40,000 refugees could arrive in Ireland by the end of April.
The Department for Children said in a statement on Saturday that more than 58,000 refugees have arrived in Ireland this year, including 42,000 from Ukraine.
Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman said accommodation would continue to be offered to the most vulnerable refugees, but said others would not be offered anything and said he could not rule out that some are forced to sleep on the streets.
More than a dozen of the 33 Ukrainians who were turned away on Friday arrived at the Capuchin Day Center for the homeless on Saturday morning, all carrying luggage.
Semenchuk Andrii, who came to Ireland from Mariupol in Ukraine with his cat Musa, says RTÉ News that he “don’t know what to do” or “where to start”.
“He’s just desperate,” a translator told RTÉ.
Andrii spent Friday night at Dublin Airport and went to the Capuchins day center to warm up and eat on Saturday.
Nazar Horlev, an 18-year-old who arrived from Kherson on Thursday, spent his first night in Ireland sleeping on chairs in the crowded Citywest transit center before spending his second night sleeping at Dublin Airport.
All Ukrainians who arrived at the Capuchin Day Center reportedly spent Friday night sleeping at Dublin Airport.