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‘We need to explore all options’ – Justice Minister in favour of paying people to house Ukrainian refugees

Minister said the Government has also begun “reaching out to religious institutions” for use of their properties to house refugees


Justice Minister Helen McEntee (PA)

Justice Minister Helen McEntee (PA)

Justice Minister Helen McEntee (PA)

The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, has indicated she would personally like to see owners of private households, landlords, and owners of holiday homes, receive a financial reward for providing accommodation to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war.

Minister McEntee, visiting a “one-stop-shop” support centre for Ukraine refugees in Limerick City, said the government was considering “providing some form of financial assistance, be it to people in their own home, or people who have given up an entire property”.

“That is something I think we will probably consider. It’s probably a more efficient way than paying for a hotel or B&B, and for me personally it’s much nicer to think that a family would have the support of another family in a home or that they would have their own home as well instead of staying in a hotel or a B&B.”

“These people are fleeing war and an absolutely awful situation, so to have the comfort of somebody else’s home, and that support as well, would be great.

“We need to explore all options and that’s exactly what we are doing. The immediate need was to make sure that when people came in that they had accommodation, and so, the vast majority of people are now in hotels and B&Bs.”.

“We have over 13,300 people to date have actually been given accommodation and then you have other people who have come in privately, based on family connections or otherwise, of course that’s not sustainable in the long term,” she said.

Micheál Martin on his State visit to Helsinki on Friday said the Government will look at offering financial support to householders in return for accommodating refugees from Ukraine.

Mr Martin told the Sunday Independent: “Nothing has been ruled out in that regard.”

The British government is offering £350 (€420) a month to UK households to take in refugees. Cabinet was told last week that as much as 60pc of offers of accommodation made to the Red Cross may be unsuitable.

Across the Coalition there are now growing concerns of space in State-funded or provided accommodation running out within days with the number of daily arrivals of refugees fleeing the war exceeding 600 twice last week.

Last week the Irish Refugee Council (IRC) called on the Government to give holiday home owners €300 to €400 per month to allow their properties to be used by Ukrainian refugees.

Speaking today, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the Red Cross was trying to manage more than 25,000 offers of accommodation for the Ukrainian war refugees, however it would take time to vet each offer to verify “what’s suitable accommodation”.

Other challenges have arisen including that “people, perhaps realise this is not short term, this is potentially long term, then obviously it can have an impact on peoples decisions to do this...there are costs obviously if somebody is staying in your home and going to be using you're home whether it s a holiday home or otherwise”.

Ms McEntee said that while “Airbnbs and B&Bs and hotels have been our main focus” the government was “looking at quicker builds, modular builds” to provide emergency accommodation for Ukrainian refugees.

The minister said the Government has started a process of “reaching out to religious institutions” for use of their properties to house Ukraine refugees.

“We’ve a lot of old buildings that would have been used to house our priests and nuns in years gone by, so how can make the most of accommodation that is there, but also how can we use land.

"In saying that, we obviously need to ensure that we can continue with our Housing For All policy, which is our policy to make sure we have 35,000 plus houses built every year.”

Minister McEntee agreed “there are definitely lessons to be learned” by the government as well as “my own department”, from how quickly it had responded to the needs of Ukraine refugees, in how it responds to those asking asylum from other conflict zones.

“In years gone-by people were years in direct provision waiting for answers - that’s much quicker now, and we want to make it even shorter,” she said.

More than 100 Ukrainian war refugees who had attended the centre on Dominck Street by 2pm were being provided with PPS numbers as part of the emergency response to assisting them financially, with accommodation, and work.

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