Plans to accommodate asylum seekers on the site of the former Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum are "far from ideal", but it is better than having people on the streets, the head of office at UNHCR Ireland has said.

The Department of Integration said in a statement yesterday that "preliminary investigations" were under way at the site and that initial projections are that it could accommodate up to 176 asylum seekers.

It added temporary tented structures could be erected in the coming weeks and that the site would only be used for three months.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Enda O’Neill said that "in the current scenario where people are on the street in a situation which is not safe, that it is much better for them to be in a secure location".

He added that he "would hope that it's for the shortest length of time possible and that more appropriate medium-term accommodation can be sourced."

Referring to an incident in Dublin last month, in which a makeshift camp being used by asylum seekers was burned, he said that since then the agency welcomes "the fact that ... significant numbers of homeless asylum seekers have been housed."

Mr O'Neill said the Department of Integration is very focused on the immediate needs of homeless asylum seekers, but said there also needs to be at the same time "planning for a much better reception system over the medium- to long-term".

He said part of the plans of the accommodation working group set up at the Department of the Taoiseach is to trial rapid build modular type accommodation and said he hopes that this type of accommodation could replace tents in the short term.

Tánaiste Mícheál Martin said tented accommodation may be necessary if people arrive in large numbers in a short space of time.

He would not predict how many people will come here seeking asylum as forecasts made in the past had not proven to be correct, he said.

Buildings to be refurbished to provide more refugee accommodation have all been previously identified, Mr Martin said, adding that the rapid build programme will be in addition to the current modular accommodation programme.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Minister of State for Business Employment and Retail Neale Richmond said there is no guarantee that the site in Dundrum will be used to house asylum seekers.

Mr Richmond said he was briefed by Minister for Integration Roderic O'Gorman on the issue yesterday.

He said there is no guarantee the site will actually be used to accommodate asylum seekers, but said it is something that is being looked at.

"Ultimately this is a site that received approval from An Bord Pleanála just last week for just under 900 social and affordable homes," Mr Richmond said.

"The aim is to get those homes built as quickly as possible.

"But if there is a need to put up tented accommodation there for a number of months in the summer months, I think that's appropriate."

He added that already in the area there are 209 International Protection applicants being housed at a former religious unit and have been there since January.

"They've been strongly welcomed into the community, and I think there's certainly a pathway there to make this short term, but ultimately we do want to see people go into permanent accommodation as quickly as possible," Mr Richmond added.