The government hopes to introduce measures later this year to require Ukrainian refugees to pay for their accommodation and change their welfare benefits, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said.
The details still need to be agreed and any changes to benefits will require legislation, but both measures will be introduced at the same time.
“Ukrainians will continue to be welcome here. Any Ukrainian who comes to Ireland will not be turned away, that will not happen. However, the situation we are in now is that the numbers are very large. “It puts enormous pressure on accommodation,” the Taoiseach told reporters during his visit to Seoul, South Korea.
“We need to take measures to slow down the number of incoming payments so that we have more time to address accommodation and other issues.
“And in this context it makes sense that we take a look at the activities of other Western European countries and see that our offer is similar to that. This is why other countries, for example, do not offer unlimited, state-run accommodation at no cost,” the Taoiseach said.
Mr Varadkar said about 30 per cent of the 500 to 800 Ukrainians arriving each week had applied for temporary protection in another European country before moving to Ireland.
About 14,000 Ukrainian refugees are already working, but the government is considering changes to welfare benefits to encourage more people to take jobs.
“We cannot close our eyes to the fact that there is a lack of accommodation. We are now in a situation where we are putting people in tents and people in heated huts,” Mr Varadkar said.
“I remember my first term as Taoiseach when there was a very strong campaign to abolish direct provision, a policy which I support. I remember saying, look around Europe and see what the alternative to direct supply is – it’s tents and…” It’s containers.
“And that’s where we’re at now in Ireland, where we’ve housed 100,000 people, more than 100,000 people in the last two years. We don’t have shelter, we use tents, we use containers. This is not a situation we want to be in. But if we can slow down the influx, then we have a chance of getting it under control.”