Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman has given reassurances that no more Ukrainian refugees will be put up in tents during the current freezing weather.
He said that the last remaining of 50 refugees that had been spending the past few winter nights in tents in a direct provision centre in Knockalisheen, Co Clare, had secured proper shelter and were moved out of tents.
Mr O’Gorman was speaking after a weekend of public criticism when it emerged that dozens of the refugees fleeing the terrible war had to endure living in military tents outdoors.
There were official weather warnings in place while the refugees were housed in the emergency accommodation, with temperatures dipping close to minus ten degrees on Sunday night.
Speaking to RTE’s Today with Clare Byrne show, Mr O’Gorman said: “We’ve been able to move everybody out of the Knockalisheen tents yesterday and I want to express appreciation to both Clare County Council and also Limerick County Council and Midwest Simon who helped us move everybody out.
“We’ve moved people to about four different locations and a small number of people we were able to move into the permanent accommodation in Knockalisheen, so now all our use of tented accommodation has ceased.
“We had two other centres we were using in Athlone and in Kerry, we were able to close those over the last number of weeks and now we’ve ceased the use of tents in Knockalisheen as well.”
The Minister promised that the use of tents is finished for the moment.
He added: “For some of them, there’ll be shorter term solutions, but we’re not going to be using the tents in Knockalisheen again.
“We’re accommodating 63,000 people across the country right now in a combination of International Protection and Ukrainians and at the maximum 600 people have been accommodated in tents.
“So, I think it’s important to say that it’s less than 1% of our total accommodation that has been through tents.
“But still, that’s not an approach that I want to be taking.
“We use tents because of the tightness of accommodation at that time and we’ve been working as I’ve said over the last number of weeks to move away from the use of tented accommodation and ensure that everybody can be accommodated indoors.
“It (the problem) has been solved by bringing on further, additional accommodation through a range of mechanisms.
“Every day, teams within my department are looking to increase the amount of accommodation we have available to us.
“We’ve been opening new accommodation for both Ukrainians and International Protection applicants across the country.
“And as numbers of both Ukrainians and International Protection applicants coming into the country continue to rise, we need to continue to do that.”
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