Supports and accommodation for refugees seeking shelter in Ireland could be time-limited under proposals due to be considered by the Government.
The Cabinet committee on Ukraine will meet on Tuesday with Ministers set to discuss the shortage in national accommodation including for those fleeing the war in Ukraine. Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman will seek immediate access to buildings that belong to other Government departments in order to create between four and six emergency temporary rest facilities in the coming weeks.
The Department of Children has also finalised a paper examining what other European countries are offering refugees. It is understood that the paper shows that Ireland is an “outlier” in terms of the type of accommodation offered to refugees, notably hotel accommodation.
A senior Government source said that in other European Union countries there are time limits on supports, particularly in terms of accommodation. Such measures will now be considered in terms of Ireland’s policy response. A source said “all areas have to be considered” as the State struggles to find accommodation across the board. It is understood that discussions on any time limits are at an early stage and have not yet been formally tabled between departments.
Separate discussions are under way between the Department of Children and the Department of Justice to try to find a way to move international protection applicants who have permission to remain into the private rented sector.
Another Government source described this as a “big problem” and said “most” of those in the direct-provision centre in Mosney have now been given permission to stay, while around 5,000 people in other direct-provision centres either can’t or won’t leave.
The source said there was “no easy answer” to the issue and that there was a fear of creating further levels of homelessness. They pointed out that, according to figures published last week, nearly 40 per cent of homeless people are not Irish citizens, while 17 per cent are non-Europeans. This has led to speculation in Government that the increase in homelessness since the pandemic is being partially driven by non-Irish citizens seeking emergency accommodation.
Ministers will discuss options to address the projected shortfall in accommodation during Tuesday’s meeting.
The Department of Children has compiled a number of papers for the meeting detailing the state of play including arrival numbers, the current situation in the Citywest transit hub and updates on the implementation of measures already announced. Ministers will also discuss the piece of work looking at the offerings for beneficiaries of temporary protection in Ireland in comparison to other European Union countries.
“It is a factual basis of what everyone is offering. Ireland is an outlier in how it supplies accommodation because of the heavy reliance on hotel accommodation. In other countries it would be private accommodation or pre-existing Ukrainian networks,” a source said.
The department will also be seeking immediate access to buildings from other departments to address looming shortages in accommodation for those arriving. Between four and six buildings are needed. These would be put into almost immediate use in the coming weeks as temporary rest facilities for those arriving and seeking shelter.
The Department of Children will also ask for extra staff to help assist with the significant workload associated with the humanitarian response.
It comes as the Citywest emergency shelter facility remained closed to new international protection applicants over the weekend.
Minister of State for Integration Joe O’Brien said on Saturday morning that 55 people who arrived between Tuesday and Thursday and who were homeless have now found temporary accommodation.
He stressed, however, that “overall we are in a space of a few weeks where it is very tight”.
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien also told RTÉ that there had been “difficulties of late” accommodating asylum seekers, but the State was doing “everything we can” to provide shelter to people.
The Department of Children warned last week of a severe shortage of accommodation, particularly for single men, with officials prioritising available space for women and children. Mr O’Brien said the numbers of asylum seekers left sleeping rough were “very small” but “not what we like to see”.