The state is trying to block the booking of entire hotels for up to a year as it scrambles to find accommodation for people fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
As the war spreads and the number of people seeking shelter on arrival here increases, talks are at an advanced stage on the long-term booking of a 100-room hotel in Cork, specifically as a center accommodation.
It is understood that a similar approach is being considered in other cities where suitable hotels are available.
However, with more than 5,000 PPS numbers already issued to Ukrainian refugees since the start of the war and with the number of arrivals here on the rise – up to 450 a day in recent days – there are concerns about the capacity of the State to accommodate all short term arrivals. .
In Cork alone, an estimated 1,700 Ukrainian refugees are staying in hotels and guesthouses, but sources say authorities are frantically planning up to 10,000 in the coming weeks.
Around 240, mostly women and children, have landed at Cork Airport on flights from Poland in the past two weeks. Additional immigration officers have been deployed there, alongside interpreters and Irish Red Cross volunteers who are distributing food, personal hygiene items and goodie bags for children.
About a third have applied for asylum, requiring processing in Dublin, with arrangements in place for taxi and bus transport.
There were delays due to accommodation issues at hotels in Cork City, Clare and Kerry.
At first, around 10-20 Ukrainians were on each flight, most with contacts in Ireland who were able to provide them with accommodation.
The numbers are now between 30 and 40 per flight, including the first to arrive here with injuries.
Those arriving now have little or no English and need accommodation. The city’s Covid Community Response Teams, set up during the pandemic, have been reactivated and repurposed to support refugees.
One of three support centers announced by Social Care Minister Heather Humphreys on Thursday has opened at the Cork Social Care offices on Hanover Street to help Ukrainian refugees obtain PPS numbers, social assistance and give them access to other state services.
Representatives of the Citizen Information Service and social welfare officers are on hand to provide advice and support. Interpretation services are available at the centres.
Wojciech Bialek, CEO of Together-Razem, a charity that helps integrate Polish and Eastern European migrants here and has played a key role in supporting refugees from Ukraine, said the Church could play a role in accommodation.
“With the shelling now spreading to western Ukraine, I think we will see even more people fleeing now,” he said.
“I know Minister Simon Coveney is visiting Poland so I would encourage him to look at how they are doing and find this international best practice and implement it here.
“I think the charity sector and housing associations could also help. The Church, with its many real estate assets, could also help.
“It’s about putting everyone on deck to help each other through this situation.”
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping spoke for nearly two hours yesterday as the White House sought to dissuade Beijing from providing military or economic assistance to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Biden warned Mr Xi that there would be “consequences” if China provided material support to Russia. China’s Foreign Ministry said Xi told Biden the war in Ukraine must end as soon as possible and called on NATO countries to engage with Moscow.
“The Ukraine crisis is something we don’t want to see,” Xi was quoted as saying by Chinese state media.