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State to cover €5m revamp bill for church buildings to aid Ukrainian refugees

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A coach of Ukrainian refugees arrives at Gormanston military camp in Co Meath. Picture date: Tuesday July 19, 2022.

A coach of Ukrainian refugees arrives at Gormanston military camp in Co Meath. Picture date: Tuesday July 19, 2022.

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A coach of Ukrainian refugees arrives at Gormanston military camp in Co Meath. Picture date: Tuesday July 19, 2022.

The Government is to spend €5 million renovating and maintaining buildings owned by religious orders to accommodate Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war.

The Department of Children, which has been leading the State’s efforts to house refugees, has been in talks with the Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland (AMRI) about securing church-owned accommodation for free or at a low cost.

The buildings would be used to house Ukrainian refugees and potentially other people seeking international protection after fleeing oppressive regimes.

AMRI told Government officials that its members’ properties could be offered free of charge on condition the properties are maintained, utilities paid and supports put in place for refugees hosted in these properties.

The Government is examining whether charities or voluntary organisations or approved housing bodies will be responsible for maintaining the properties and supporting those who stay there.

“While difficult to anticipate cost, it would be hoped this mechanism could yield a significant number of additional units of accommodation at a cost of approximately €5m,” a Government memo said.

Meanwhile, a senior Government source said there was “reluctance” among migrants to take up accommodation pledges from members of the public because they would be leaving their new communities and the support networks they had built up in hotels or student halls.

A non-governmental organisation, the United Nations’ International Organisation for Migration (IOM), has now been dispatched to help support refugees to move into pledged accommodation.

At the start of the war in Ukraine, more than 25,000 pledges of accommodation were made through the Red Cross.

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Around 15,000 of these were uncontactable or withdrew their pledge.

Approximately 3,000 of the pledges are vacant homes.

Approximately 6,500 are shared accommodation, which must be vetted by Red Cross workers.

Just under 3,000 refugees have so far moved into pledged accommodation.

Between 5,000 and 6,000 refugees were moved into student accommodation at the start of the summer and 3,500 Ukrainians remain there.

However, people are being moved into hotels that are beginning to free up as the summer season progresses and as students prepare to head back to college.

Government sources have acknowledged that the coming weeks, especially the second half of August, will pose a “challenge” in sourcing housing for refugees.

Last week, it emerged the Aviva Stadium is being used as temporary accommodation for refugees. The Department of Sport contacted a number of sporting bodies including the GAA and IRFU about providing assistance.

Last month, the Government introduced stricter visa requirements for refugees travelling to Ireland from some European countries.



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