The Irish Times view on changing supports for Ukrainian refugees: Ireland of the not so many welcomes

Many of those affected are from vulnerable groups such as the elderly, women, children and people with special needs

Ireland opened its arms in 2022 to Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion of their homeland. Under the Temporary Protection Directive activated for the first time by the European Union all members states except Denmark were obliged to provide accommodation as well as access to social welfare, medical care, education and employment to refugees from Ukraine.

The Irish supports were amongst the most generous, including an open-ended commitment to accommodation and full social welfare payments. Other states were less forthcoming, reflecting perhaps their different experience up to that point with migration.

It is estimated that there are now some 100,000 Ukrainians in the State. In March the Government dramatically reduced the supports available to new arrivals. Since March they have only been offered accommodation for 90 days with a weekly allowance of €38.80 per adult instead of the full social welfare payment of €232 per week.

The Government said at the time that it was bringing Irish supports into line with those in other member states. It was clear that it was also seeking to make Ireland less attractive to Ukrainians as the system struggled to cope with a surge in International Protection applicants from other countries.


Further changes have now been announced. From the end of next month the 27,000 Ukrainian refugees in State accommodation will see their social welfare payment reduced from €232 to €38.80.

This latest move has drawn criticism from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Irish Red Cross and the Ukrainian ambassador. They all point out that many of those affected are from vulnerable groups such as the elderly, women, children and people with special needs. They could be forced to return to Ukraine where Russia has launched a fresh offensive.

The rationale for the new measures seems to be – in part at least – to free up State accommodation to house International Protection applicants. Ukrainian refugees who find their own accommodation are entitled to full social welfare.

The first part of the Government plan – the changes brought in last March – does seem to be working, with a sharp drop-off in arrivals from Ukraine being reported, while Ukrainians here seemed to understand the Government’s predicament.

The second part may not go so smoothly, particularly if, given the warnings regarding vulnerable groups, the Government finds, not for the first time, that commitments made in haste during an election campaign may come back to haunt it in the days, weeks and months that follow.