Putting a time limit on State accommodation for Ukrainian refugees would be "unethical", the Irish Refugee Council has warned.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday told the Dáil that Ireland is reaching ‘capacity’ in terms of the support it can offer refugees and asylum seekers.
“While there is no limit on compassion of the Irish Government and the Irish people, there is a limit on our capacity,” he said.
He was speaking as Government considers introducing a 90-day time-limit on State accommodation for newly arrived Ukrainians.
Under the plan, people who arrive in the coming months would need to find a private rental or take a property through the offer-a-home scheme once their 90 days is up.
Irish Refugee Council Chief Nick Henderson told Newstalk Breakfast the limit on staying in accommodation is "unethical".
“Also, practically, it's not going to be realistic,” he said.
“Where would people go after those three months, that 90-day period?”
Yesterday, Ukrainian Network member Viktoria Tymoshchuk told Newstalk Breakfast that some Ukrainians in Ireland are “fishing for opportunities” rather than fleeing the war.
She said parts of the west of the country remain relatively untouched by the war – and the idea of people leaving relatively safe areas to come to Ireland is causing serious division among the Ukrainian community living here.
Mr Henderson said people need to remember that the war continues to cause chaos across large parts of Ukraine.
“Just yesterday, it seemed that there was a nuclear power plant targeted by Russian drones," he said.
“The war rages on and I think it's important for us to step back and go back to the moment in spring  when Ireland did do everything it could.”
Mr Henderson said there is only a limit on capacity for refugees “using our current accommodation model”.
“The Government has done a huge amount of work to support refugees from Ukraine, but there has been too much of a reliance on emergency accommodation,” he said.
“It’s nearly completely reliant on hotels and Airbnbs - I don't think that's the right model."
“There are good ideas about medium and long-term accommodation, but we’re struggling in terms of scale.
“There are ideas around modular homes, rapid-build homes, but they need to be scaled up.
“There is a huge success story in the number of people who are hosting refugees from Ukraine, currently around 14,000 people hosted Ukrainians, but that can be scaled up as well.”
Mr Henderson noted that there are other EU countries that have taken in more refugees per capita than Ireland.
“Ireland is hosting a significant number of refugees from Ukraine but there are other countries across Europe that are smaller in population that are hosting more – Moldova for example, 113,000,” he said.
Ireland offers up to €220 per week to Ukrainian refugees through social welfare, one of the highest rates in the EU.
Mr Henderson disagreed that this payment is the only pull factor for Ukrainians to come to Ireland.
“That choice could be based on family connections, language distance from Ukraine,” he said.
“Some people wanted to be close, some people wanted to be far from the war.
“Some people may choose where they will get support that would enable them to start a new life.”
Listen back here: