Nearly 24,000 people fleeing conflict in Ukraine have sought short-term accommodation with the Children’s Department, an Oireachtas committee has heard.
But a senior official has warned that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find suitable accommodation and that some places offered so far are simply “not sustainable”.
Kevin McCarthy, general secretary of the Department for Children and Equality, told the Public Accounts Committee that 23,894 Ukrainians have applied for emergency quarters.
“The vast majority of them are either in hotels or in bed and breakfasts or in bed and breakfasts,” he said.
But some are sleeping on “cots in community halls or other gathering places that are not of a standard that we want to offer people”, he said, adding that these arrangements “are not not sustainable”.
While some hotels are “under contract until the end of this year” and other agreements extend “beyond this period”, he stressed that no one knows how long accommodation will be needed. .
“It is becoming increasingly difficult to bring new capacity into service,” Mr. McCarthy warned, and acknowledged that the department had so far “relyed heavily” on local authorities, particularly for water supply. premises on weekends.
Some 4,000 places will be freed up by departing students over the next few months, but he noted that these “will have to be freed up at the end of the summer”.
Mr McCarthy also revealed that his department was under additional pressure due to a sharp increase in the number of people seeking asylum.
Some 3,500 people were due to apply for international protection this year.
That number has already reached 4,500, McCarthy said, stressing that this “is quite distinct” from those fleeing war in Ukraine.
The number of asylum seekers “is increasing very significantly, which will put us under pressure”, he warned.
Asked how arrivals from Ukraine are handled, he noted that “there is now a single reception and transit center in Citywest”, with various service providers operating there.
“Well over 90%” arrive through Dublin Airport, he told Sinn Féin MP Imelda Munster.
Committee members strongly criticized the department’s widespread and documented non-compliance with procurement standards in 2020, with 151 contracts worth more than 91 million euros found to be insufficient, according to the comptroller and auditor general.
Fine Gael’s Alan Dillon welcomed Mr McCarthy for his first appearance before the committee.
And Sinn Féin TD Committee Chairman Brian Stanley welcomed Labor TD Alan Kelly, who replaces his colleague Sean Sherlock, who has completed a two-year term on the Public Accounts Committee.