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Roderic O’Gorman says ‘lessons learned’ from first refugee accommodation pledge drive as more properties needed

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Equality and Integration Minister Roderic O'Gorman.

Equality and Integration Minister Roderic O'Gorman.

Equality and Integration Minister Roderic O'Gorman.

The minister in charge of the State’s response to the refugee crisis said his department has learnt from the first public accommodation appeal, as it seeks to secure more pledges.

Later today, Children and Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman and the Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien will officially ask members of the public to sign-up to the latest accommodation drive. 

Mr O’Gorman said the Government is launching a “new call” for “unoccupied houses, apartments or holiday homes”. 

The Government launched its first public appeal shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and around 5,500 Ukrainian people – or roughly 10pc of the total number of Ukrainian people who have arrived in Ireland – were provided with a place to stay. 

However, homeowners across the country have complained that their offers were never processed, while the State’s temporary accommodation system reached capacity. 

To streamline the process this time around, Mr O’Gorman said the applications will be handled directly by Local Authorities. 

“We are asking people to consider to pledge them for an initial period of six months," he said.

"Anyone who pledges will benefit from the recognition payments. That's the monthly payments that's… doubling to €800 per month tax free, and we hope that we can continue to build on the strong support across the country for Ukrainian refugees.

“We've learnt from the initial appeal process. This one is going to be done directly through local authorities. So rather than going through one centralised national portal, people will pledge to their own local authority,” he added. 

"There'll also be a process where they can see where their offer is, in the process, as well online, so people will be better informed as to the take up of their offer.”

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In recent weeks a number of accommodation providers who are housing Ukrainian people, including hoteliers and B&B owners, have complained they have not been paid by the Department of Children.  

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr O’Gorman confirmed there were issues with processing some payments and steps have been taken to tackle the backlog. 

"In a number of situations there were delays in payments. In the last month, we've moved a significant number of our staff into the payments units to make sure we can continue to process those payments as as quickly as possible... I know we are now well through much of that backlog that had built up,” he said. 

In recent days two demonstrations were held in Dublin’s East Wall area, over the redevelopment of on old ESB building into a centre for asylum seekers. Many of those who protested complained that they were not consulted in advance.  

Mr O’Gorman and the Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will meet with local residents tomorrow, to allay their concerns.

Mr O’Gorman echoed comments by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, who said said no community has a veto on who lives there, but added that the State has a “moral” obligation to provide shelter to “people fleeing persecution”. 

"When I meet residents in East Wall... we'll provide information about the numbers of people who will be using the property... the time period over which we're proposing to to use it,” he said. 

"East Wall has welcomed people in the past and I hope we'll be able to see a welcome extended.”

Mr O’Gorman also acknowledged the State needs to build more purpose built temporary accommodation as quickly as possible and move away from the “reliance” on private hotels and B&Bs.

He said the Government also "needs to consider” changing planning legislation, so the temporary accommodation is can be developed quickly. 

"We're looking to continue to grow the amount of accommodation that we can provide... but we will also have to open more temporary accommodation and look at the repurposing of buildings around the country. That is going to be a consequence of the significant population pressure we're under right now,” he added.


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