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15th Apr 2022

Almost 6,000 empty homes offered up for Ukrainian refugees

The Irish Red Cross is meeting the “hugely challenging” situation.

Almost 23,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Ireland since the invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces in late February.

The Irish Government has continually pledged its support to Ukraine since the invasion commenced, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin further underlining the country’s commitment during his address to President Volodymyr Zelensky in Dáil Éireann earlier this month.

The Taoiseach noted that Ireland is not “politically or morally neutral in the face of war crimes” and told Ukrainian refugees that his country is “your home” for the foreseeable future.

As the Government struggles to meet the logistics of housing incoming refugees amidst a spiralling cost of living crisis, emergency accommodation is set to be provided for the newest Ukrainian citizens to reach Irish shores.

The accommodation in question is likely to include halls and sports centres, which is regarded as a temporary measure.

It is estimated that the number of refugees expected to have arrived in Ireland by Easter Weekend could range between 26,000 and 32,000 people.

On average, 900 new refugees per day are anticipated by the Government.

Speaking on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 on Friday (15 April), Secretary General of the Irish Red Cross Liam O’Dwyer said that his organisation has received 5,700 offers of empty homes to be used as accommodation.

“We focused on the vacant houses initially,” said O’Dwyer.

“What we found is that there’s about 16% [of people offering empty houses] when contacted have just decided to change their minds and there’s another 44% who aren’t contactable in the sense that they have been rung three times.

“That doesn’t mean they’re not interested. Because of that, we’re actually sending out an email communication today – to everybody who hasn’t been contacted yet, but in particular to these people, just to ascertain are they available, they just haven’t been able to get to the phone… so that’s the follow-up.”

O’Dwyer noted that the remainder of 40% is being followed up on via assessment of the properties available, before later linking up with the Department of Housing for placement.

Asked if the situation is proving more challenging than expected, O’Dwyer said it isn’t, as the Irish Red Cross has faced similar instances in the past.

“But it is hugely challenging because of the numbers involved,” he explained.

“The numbers involved are enormous and the telephone calls that are being made; they’re not ‘yes/no’ telephone calls, they are quite detailed and they could last 10-12 minutes.

“At this stage we have three teams on the telephone; we have the Defence Forces with a significant number of people, we have a private company and then we have a number of executives from IT who are putting a huge amount of time in.”

O’Dwyer said that the shared accommodation scheme is a challenge of its own but that it does work and the ultimate reward is worthwhile.

“We’ve done this before, we did this when Syrian refugees came and recently with people from Afghanistan – I mean, this works so well because there’s an enrichment on both sides,” he said.

“I’m not suggesting it’s easy, because it’s not. As always, there’s talk of boundaries, there’s talk of people getting together and understanding each other, of supporting each other – but most of the feedback we get of people in shared accommodation is really wonderful.”