Leo Varadkar has said that a joint proposal would be brought to Cabinet in the coming weeks to change the offering to Ukrainians arriving into the country.
The Taoiseach said Ireland was not going to refuse Ukrainian refugees or other asylum seekers, but that the Government “can’t be blind to (the) reality” that Ireland is seen as more attractive than other EU countries.
“We’re not going to turn anyone away,” he said on Tuesday as he opened a new road in Athy, Co Kildare.
“No Ukrainian who comes to Ireland is going to be told ‘you’re not welcome here’. Nobody coming from other parts of the world seeking international protection is going to be told to go away. They’ll have their application processed.
“But what we are saying is that we’re seeing increasing numbers of what are called secondary movements, Ukrainians who had been living in other parts of Western Europe for a number of months or even over a year, people seeking international protection, who may have fled a country where they weren’t safe but have actually been living in other parts of Western Europe for a number of months or a number of years, and that is different.
“And we do believe that part of the reason why we’re seeing those secondary movements is because the offering that we have in Ireland is different to that of other countries.”
He said that Ireland had accepted an “unprecedented” number of people from overseas from the war in Ukraine and others seeking international protection, compared to 3,000 or 4,000 in previous years.
“So you can see how much the situation has changed and we can’t be blind to that reality.”
As of October, 96,338 Ukrainian refugees had arrived in Ireland since the start of the war in February 2022.
The Government has said that as a further 30,000 to 50,000 were expected to arrive in the next year, it must change the open-ended accommodation it was offering, and potentially reduce entitlements to social welfare supports.
Mr Varadkar said that if social welfare payments were to be cut for Ukrainians arriving in Ireland, it would be done by way of a joint memo.
“So a memo that would be co-ordinated by my office, the Department of the Taoiseach, but will be brought forward by a number of ministers because we have to look at the whole thing in the round, how it impacts on schools, healthcare, on the housing situation as well.”
Mr Varadkar said he could not say when the proposal would come into effect.
“There have been some draft proposals brought forward by Minister (for Integration Roderic) O’Gorman, but they only related to accommodation and we’ve formed the view that we have to see it all in the round and take into account social protection, education, healthcare, housing, all of those things.
“So certainly not this week. Maybe in the next couple of weeks, but we don’t have a timeline as of yet.”
Asked whether Ireland had the power to turn away Ukrainians coming from a secondary EU country, Mr Varadkar said: “I don’t believe so.
“Under the temporary protection directive, somebody fleeing Ukraine can seek temporary protection in any EU member state, and that then gives them the freedom to travel within the European Union.”