Churches asked to hand over building and land for asylum seekers under new plan

Minister of State Joe O’Brien seeks help amid pressure to house 1,600 unaccommodated males

The Government has written to church dioceses asking for them to make buildings or land available to help accommodate asylum seekers.

In 2022 the Government sought church land to accommodate those fleeing the war in Ukraine and has now asked for assistance again to house asylum seekers amid ongoing pressure to house 1,600 unaccommodated single males.

Joe O’Brien, Minister of State at the Department of Integration, wrote to the dioceses in early March, while also seeking more local authority lands or buildings from the County and City Management Association (CCMA).

However, he was told that local authority’s ability to provide additional buildings was “severely limited”.


Mr O’Brien said he was “disappointed with the response”, adding that the number of Ukrainians requiring so-called “rest centre” beds had dramatically decreased and that efforts should now be made to use any vacant beds to address the crisis in providing accommodation for asylum seekers.

Mr O’Brien said that the CCMA had indicated that they will keep the situation under review, “so I would be hopeful that some capacity can be found”, he said. The Dublin Fingal TD recently called for a renewed push to find extra beds for those left sleeping on the streets, warning that they are being exposed to risk.

Mr O’Brien first wrote to the CCMA last year and again in March, when he told the county managers that he was seeking “buildings that could be adapted for short-term emergency shelter or even an open space where we could erect a temporary shelter”.

Earlier this week Mr O’Brien raised concerns that Government departments had not been pushed hard enough to find extra lands or buildings. He said that former taoiseach Leo Varadkar had not put enough pressure on them to find space.

“Given the grave situation in terms of the number of people unaccommodated, many of whom are forced to sleep on the streets with all the obvious danger that entails, I feel it is incumbent on me to do everything within my power to try to assist the Trojan efforts of Minister [Roderic] O’Gorman and our officials within the Department of Integration.

“On that basis I wrote to both the CCMA and each dioceses asking them to give serious consideration to their buildings and/or land portfolio with a view to trying to identify anything at all that might help alleviate the situation.”

The Government is struggling to accommodate the number of migrants coming here seeking international protection, and has recently introduced a series of steps to speed up processing of international protection applicants, as well as limiting the accommodation provided to those fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

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