Some refugees who arrived in Ireland without a home have been supported by the Capuchin Homeless Day Center and others are being returned to Dublin Airport, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said.

The situation came after the Citywest transit hub was closed to new arrivals. The Department for Children and Integration confirmed that on Friday 33 Ukrainian refugees were notified of the lack of housing.

A spokeswoman for the Department said all the people who were not allowed to leave the Citywest transit hub were men, and women and children were not turned away. Men who could not be accommodated were asked to provide contact details so they could be contacted when accommodation became available.

Mr Martin said on Saturday night that 33 was the latest figure he had for people who had turned down Citywest and that he believed some without accommodation options had returned to Dublin Airport.

He said: “The situation is not satisfactory” and the government is “urgently” seeking further accommodation, admitting that “we are under pressure in this regard”.

He also said that on Saturday the refugees went to the Capuchin day center, adding that “there is no housing for them unless they can provide it in an alternative way.” Mr Martin suggested that some of the refugees may know people in Ireland who could take them in.

Speaking before a Cairde Fáil dinner in Dublin on Saturday, Mr Martin defended the Government’s record on refugee accommodation.

Journalists told him that the numbers arriving early this year are expected to be much higher than the 55,000 people who have come here from Ukraine so far, and that the state has been slow to respond. Mr Martin said he disagreed, saying “the numbers should not have been higher”.

He said the state had been “extremely swift” in its response to “the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Second World War”.

According to him, Ireland has responded in an “extraordinary way”, accepting up to 55,000 people from Ukraine and 9,000 people from other countries asking for international protection.

“We have never had to accommodate so many people in such a short period of time before, and because we are in a war situation, there is no other explanation for it.

“We will continue to build additional capacity and do our best in this matter.”

He insisted that “the country has done well” and said the number of arrivals had fallen as the situation in Ukraine stabilized but was rising again as the war intensified, which had taken a “very unpleasant turn”.

Mr. Martin accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of weaponizing migration and energy. He confirmed that €400 a month for families hosting refugees was under consideration when asked if it would be increased and would be among the issues discussed at a cabinet meeting on Monday.

Sleep on the streets

Children’s Minister Roderick O’Gorman said on Friday that he could not rule out that some refugees would end up sleeping on the streets.

“The department is urgently working across the government and with agencies, non-governmental organizations and local authorities to create new housing so that the state’s humanitarian responsibilities can be met,” said the Department’s press secretary.

“Anyone who has alternative accommodation options is asked to use them, including mortgaged accommodation, and stay away from Citywest for the time being.”

Under current arrangements, new arrivals from Ukraine are transferred to the Citywest transit hub, where they will be processed by the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Justice as usual.

Any ‘vulnerable’ applicants, including women and children, will be processed by the Children’s Department and allocated accommodation. In the event that suitable accommodation is not available for all, other applicants are informed, their contact details are taken and they are asked to liaise with the department to find out when accommodation may become available.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Martin Haydon, said the lack of available accommodation for Ukrainian refugees was a cause for concern.

“Huge efforts” have been made to accommodate the tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees and other asylum seekers who have arrived in Ireland this year, he told RTÉ’s Cathy Hannon radio show on Saturday.

“The number of people coming has increased significantly, when it was down a bit in the summer, it has more than doubled in recent weeks,” he said.

Mr Haydon said the increase in admissions had put “stress and strain on the system”.

“It’s about us being honest and open with people … We can’t guarantee everyone who comes here a bed right now because of the situation we’re in,” he said.

Earlier this week several members of Mayo County Council strongly opposed plans to build 28 modular homes for Ukrainian refugees in Claremorris.

Mr Heydon said councilors’ comments pitting the housing needs of Ukrainian refugees against those of the Irish were “unacceptable”.

Wayne Stanley, head of policy at homelessness charity Simon Communities, said the lack of accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers was “very worrying”.

There were no spaces available in emergency homeless shelters, meaning refugees could end up sleeping on the streets, he said.

The charity has seen “one or two isolated cases” to date of Ukrainians arriving in Ireland and being forced to sleep rough, he said.

“We were concerned that this problem is growing … the coming weeks are going to be very difficult, so we are very concerned,” he said.

“As capacity continues to shrink, it’s a really worrying prospect that even families could be caught out [sleeping rough] too,” he said.