The Head of Office with UNHCR Ireland has described the ongoing accommodation shortage for refugees as "concerning" and said the UN agency would like to see the processing of applications for asylum speeded up.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Enda O'Neill said no one wants to see International Protection applicants on the street and the "solutions are not coming through fast enough."

Yesterday, figures obtained by RTÉ's This Week showed that the number of staff working on processing asylum appeals fell by 8% since 2019 and that there are currently 850 appeals cases pending before the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT).

However, there are just 46 staff working with the tribunal, a drop of 8% on the numbers in place in 2019 when there were far fewer people seeking international protection in Ireland.

Mr O'Neill said that accelerated processing of particular caseloads has benefits for everyone.

"That has benefits for everyone, for the individuals concerned it can reduce the length of time they live in accommodation centres. They can realise their rights and move on with their lives.

"Equally in terms of return decisions it much more likely that they can be implemented both from a practical and legal perspective."

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He said Ireland's emergency response to the influx of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine was, in many ways, exemplary, but the medium-term response was never sufficient to get ahead of the problem and there was always going to be a need for the State to play a greater role in buying and constructing accommodation centres.

"It's very concerning the comments from Minister [for Integration Roderic] Gorman and his department make it clear that at present, they don't have enough accommodation coming on stream in short term to meet the needs of those arriving," said Mr O'Neill.

He acknowledged that Ireland is not the only country struggling in its response and experiencing a disproportionate number of arrivals.

Mr O'Neill said there is a need for greater planning and leadership at local level to try and identify appropriate accommodation in every local authority area.

A growing opposition to asylum seekers is very concerning, he said, adding that there is a real danger that fringe elements and the far right are setting the agenda on what are important issues that need to be discussed in a respectful and constructive way.

He said he would be particularly concerned that anyone "perceived as not being Irish" is now potentially a target.