Student accommodation must be vacant for a year before being repurposed for refugees under new protocol

Provision of extra student beds as part of the refugee accommodation effort has been a feature of the last two summers

Student accommodation must have been vacant for a year before it is converted for use for housing refugees and asylum seekers, under a new protocol agreed by the Government.

It follows reports that purpose-built student accommodation in Sligo had been set to be converted to house those fleeing here from troublespots around the world, including the war in Ukraine.

A spokeswoman for Minister for Higher and Further Education Simon Harris said on Wednesday morning that a new protocol had been agreed with the Department of Integration, which is managing the State’s response to the refugee accommodation crisis.

“It has been agreed student accommodation must be vacant for 12 months before the Department of Children can consider it for use,” the spokeswoman said. The protocol extends to student accommodation currently in operation, as well as vacant.


The provision of extra student beds as part of the refugee accommodation effort has been a feature of the last two summers, when colleges are out of term time and the need for dedicated student accommodation is significantly lessened.

However, the protocol was drawn up to manage the risk of increasing numbers of providers switching full time to provide refugee and asylum seeker accommodation and in turn, creating a shortage for students.

All properties that have been actively used as refugee accommodation for the summer months are to be returned as agreed, the spokeswoman said, with the protocol to be reviewed every six months.

“Minister Harris and Minister [for Integration Roderic] O’Gorman are pleased to have reached an agreement, which offers important clarity for students.”

The Sligo-Leitrim TD March MacSharry has welcomed the intervention by Mr Harris, saying that it would guarantee that two developments in Sligo town could now revert back to being used to student accommodation.

He also argued that immigration policy was having a knock-on effect on housing needs for other group in Irish society.

“Having first raised this issue in June I’ve been pressurising the Government to ensure this outcome. I am glad that common sense has prevailed however it brings the flaws and absurdity of our immigration policy in to sharp focus,” he said.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times