Ireland cannot turn away new asylum applicants despite current pressures facing the system, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has warned as refugees face the prospect of homelessness this winter.
Speaking to WLRfm, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment warned that Ireland’s membership of the European Union prevented it from capping the number of Ukrainian refugees entering the country, which is now at over 60,000. While speaking, the Tanaiste described it as “an enormous challenge.”
“Ireland has never experienced something like this before. We’ll not be able to accommodate everyone who arrives in the country and that’s not a place we want to be in,” he said.
“We’re not alone, by the way; I was in Brussels yesterday and every other country is in the same boat in Western Europe.”
The State has also had to contend with 16,000 applicants seeking asylum outside of Ukraine, all of whom have arrived this year, with Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman unable to rule out refugees sleeping on the streets.
“We don’t have enough accommodation available,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
The Green Party Minister also warned that refugees arriving at Dublin airport may have to stay there overnight as the Citywest holding facility – leased by the State this summer – is at full capacity.
Speaking in Cork recently Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said that over 1,000 Ukrainians were arriving into Ireland weekly along with 400 asylum seekers outside the war-torn region.
“Over the last six months, the State has done the equivalent of finding accommodation for the population of the city of Waterford,” he said.
Tempers flared on the issue in the Dáil recently as Mary Lou McDonald criticised the government for its supposed failure to provide for fleeing Ukrainians and Irish homeless people.
The Sinn Féin leader said the Government was “not content with denying our own people the right to an affordable secure roof over their heads” but was extending “its catastrophic failure to those coming to Ireland seeking humanitarian assistance”.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin accused the opposition leader of “playing both sides” in her remarks after he defended the government’s track record in accommodating those fleeing the war.
“We never before had to deal with such numbers coming into the country.
“We have to deal with it because of a war.
“It is a vicious war and we have said, along with our European Union colleagues, that we will do everything we can to accommodate Ukrainians, and we have… That must be acknowledged.”