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Saturday 16 December 2017

Hotels and apartments considered as options for housing refugees

The crew of the Irish naval vessel the LÉ Samuel Beckett bring migrants aboard after rescuing 218 during two operations off the coast of Libya
The crew of the Irish naval vessel the LÉ Samuel Beckett bring migrants aboard after rescuing 218 during two operations off the coast of Libya
Frances Fitzgerald

Sam Griffin

Hotels, apartment blocks, self-catering units and state-owned buildings are all being considered as accommodation for Syrian refugees coming here as part of the EU's resettlement programme.

Between 20 and 30 refugees will be housed here before the end of the year, according to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

The Government previously announced that it would take more than 4,000 refugees, mostly from Syria and some neighbouring countries, with around 300 expected to arrive every three months next year.

Ms Fitzgerald was among those attending a meeting of the special task-force which has been set up to oversee the arrival of refugees.

A public advertisement which closed last week sought expressions of interest from commercial providers to offer accommodation for those due to arrive here.

The minister said some accommodation had been identified already and that other offers would be assessed for their suitability.

She said: "Modifications have been made to some buildings already that were hotels, but we've had a wide variety of offers of accommodation and commercial accommodation.

"We're also looking at what the State has that might be suitable and we've had self-catering and apartment blocks.

"There is a wide variety of offers that have been made, so we now have to assess that and see what is most suitable for the family groups that are arriving."

Offers to accommodate refugees from homeowners have also been received and they will also be assessed.

Ms Fitzgerald said the Irish resettlement programme was for refugees who had made their way to Italy and Greece, mostly Syrian nationals. She said around 80pc of these would be granted refugee status once they arrived in Ireland.

"We will be sending over liaison officers in the next weeks to identify family groups, probably Syrians. We will probably have between 20 and 30 arriving before the end of the year," the minister added.

A group of 100 Syrian refugees have already arrived in Ireland but that is part of a long-running resettlement programme.

They are being housed in counties Kerry and Cork and Ms Fitzgerald said there had very a very good response to the resettlement programme so far.

The Government has pledged to process documentation for those arriving here within eight to 12 weeks and said "all the supports necessary" will be put in place to ensure that they integrate into Irish society.

The Justice Minister also criticised the plans by Austria to erect a fence along its border with Slovenia to slow the flow of migrants as the crisis continues.

"Obviously, any thoughts of building walls or any suggestions that a wall is the answer evokes very traumatic memories for people across Europe," she said.

In a statement after the meeting, a department spokesperson said "good progress had been made" and plans for resettlement were on track.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland said refugees being offered shelter and security in Ireland must be given full access to family rights, education, training and work and not just accommodation.

"Ministers need to outline further their proposals on how they will reunite those who have been torn apart from their loved ones, either through conflict or during the long and hazardous journey to the relative safety of Europe," its chief executive Brian Killoran said.

The calls came after the Irish Navy rescued a further 218 people, including a pregnant woman, from two makeshift vessels in water off the coast of Libya early yesterday morning.

The operation, carried out by the LÉ Samuel Beckett, means that more than 7,000 people have now been rescued by the Irish missions.

Irish Independent

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