It feels like the government’s left hand has no clue what its counterpart is doing. Even as Ukrainian refugees are being left to sleep on mattresses and the bare floor in Dublin Airport, the Cabinet is being told that almost double the number already stretching accommodation to the limit will likely arrive.
With some 43,000 Ukrainians having arrived since March, we’ve now learned that an additional 33,000 are expected to follow.
The obvious question is, where will these people go? We are already bursting at the seams, whether the government wants to admit it or not. Their foolish policy of telling the world Ireland would guarantee free accommodation and much else to anyone claiming asylum has meant a surge in non-Ukrainian migrants in addition to the huge numbers coming here actually fleeing war.
Public opinion is already seeking a cap on the number of Ukrainian refugees Ireland can take, because it is perfectly obvious when we are putting people in tents in old Army camps or in airports or begging hotels to take people at a cost to the State of €135 a night, that Ireland is already beyond capacity and can take no more, however difficult their plight. Reality bites, but not apparently for the government or most of those in Opposition.
A whopping 84% of Irish voters recently polled agreed there was a “limit to the number of asylum seekers and refugees Ireland can cope with”. Reading those opinion polls has likely prompted the government to talk up plans to restrict the number of migrants coming here who have already made refugee applications in another European country. With projections that the number of those coming here claiming asylum (though usually arriving from safe countries like Georgia and Nigeria) was set to increase five fold to some 15,000, the government needed to be seen to be doing something.
But no sooner had that been announced than it was leaked that another 33,000 Ukrainian refugees are expected to arrive, because the government has set no limit on how many people we can actually take in this conflict.
Those numbers will therefore be increasing as students arrive back to college in September, requiring Ukrainians residing in student accommodation to be moved out. Where will they go?
Already Roderic O’Gorman is offering hotels €135 per person, per night if they take refugees. That’s a cost of almost €50,000 per annum for accomodation alone. How is that sustainable? There are less than 63,000 hotel rooms in total in Ireland: but no sane country would assume that it can occupy every hotel space with refugees.
The truth is that the accommodation crisis for refugees has been evident from the beginning, for any one of the pricey advisers to government who wanted to do the maths. In fairness, we now know that the Chief International Protection Officer at the Department of Justice warned the government at the outset that Ireland could not manage 10,000 of those fleeing the Ukraine.
The lunatics in government ignored that expert advice and instead said there was “no limit” to how many people could be helped by this small island. Numbers like 200,000 were casually tossed up. That was as much of a lie to the Ukrainian people as it was to the Irish people.
It all points to a pathetic, almost pathological, need for Irish politicians to be the best boys and girls in the class when it comes to EU gatherings or Davos meetings or some other such nonsense.
As I pointed out earlier this week, Ireland is taking far more than what Leo Vardakar described as “our fair share” of Ukrainians. We have, so far, taken in some 83 Ukrainians per 10,000 of our population – almost 6 times as many as Britain or France, at just 14 per 10,000. This is ludicrous.
Don’t expect anything better from Sinn Féin, by the way, who are wholly in favour of open borders, and who seem to believe that housing will grow on the same tree that produces all that lovely magic money used to buy votes and give endless stuff away at no cost.
But right now Micheál Martin is in charge, and it’s way past time for the government to acknowledge they made a mistake: that the EU can say what they like but Ireland has reached its limit and can take no more refugees, because there simply isn’t anywhere to put them. Then maybe, just maybe, we can return to the desperate plight of our own families who are living without housing and emigrating in their droves, even as we turn Dublin Airport into a direct provision centre.