29 Jun 2022

Refugee Council wants unused housing prioritised to deal with Ukraine refugee crisis

Refugee Council wants unused housing prioritised to deal with Ukraine refugee crisis

The Irish Refugee Council has called on the Government to prioritise existing, unused accommodation supply to house incoming refugees who have fled the war in Ukraine amid fears that there won't be enough accommodation in the coming weeks.

The council says while the Government’s response to date has been strong, and the Irish public’s show of solidarity has been remarkable, the focus now is to develop a long-term plan.

More than 18,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Ireland to date and this number is expected to grow as the crisis continues.

A separate report in the Irish Independent today claims that there will be nowhere for 10,000 refugees by the end of the month. 

In its policy paper to Government, published today and the first in a series of papers outlining recommendations for Government in how to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, the Irish Refugee Council highlights the need to prioritise existing, unused accommodation which is readily available and most suitable to house incoming refugees fleeing the war.

The Irish Refugee Council recognises the public’s response in pledging own-door accommodation has been nothing short of extraordinary, but the State now needs to look at more long-term solutions. Types of readily-available accommodation may include, in order of suitability:

Holiday homes which are currently unoccupied.
Unoccupied purpose-built ‘build to rent’ accommodation.
Vacant student housing.
Once these accommodation options have been exhausted, pledged housing in shared homes can then be utilised.

In addition to prioritising existing, unused accommodation, the policy paper also outlines several key recommendations:

Bolster, empower and guide a local response.
Guide and support the pledged accommodation process.
Create a clearly defined, phased approach to introducing accommodation.
Adopt a whole of society, emergency response approach.
Honour the commitment to end Direct Provision.

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said: “Our policy paper acknowledges that the Irish State’s response has been strong. We admire the Irish public’s show of solidarity, but we must now look at the next steps and a long-term plan.”

 "Our key recommendation is prioritising existing, unused accommodation supply. A voluntary holiday homes pledge scheme should be established to enable people across Ireland to offer these houses as accommodation, allowing the State to accommodate refugees from Ukraine in unoccupied holiday homes which are currently available.

 "Unoccupied purpose-built ‘build-to-rent’ apartment accommodation and student housing could be available for pledged accommodation. Pledged and hosted accommodation can provide a significant amount of supply, but it will require guidance and support. There are limits to what individuals can do, and information about, and access to, professional support is essential along with exit plans," he said.

"Given the scale of the challenge, a whole of society approach should be adopted, with all sectors — public, private and civil society — urged to support the huge humanitarian response effort and provide accommodation wherever possible. Emergency powers and legislative change should also be considered, if necessary.

"Finally, we call on Government to honour its commitment to ending Direct Provision. While this commitment is likely to suffer in the short term, accommodation solutions identified now may offer some opportunities for pursuing alternatives to Direct Provision in the longer term," Mr Henderson said. 

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