State considers further restrictions on benefits to refugees and people seeking asylum

Making conditions here less attractive for migrants now seen as central part of asylum strategy

Further restrictions on benefits to refugees and people seeking asylum here are to be considered in the coming weeks as the Government seeks to reduce the numbers arriving and ease pressure on the asylum system.

An estimated 27,000 Ukrainians, who are not in work and live in “State-provided serviced accommodation” such as hotels and B&Bs where meals and other services are provided, are likely to be affected by Tuesday’s move. In six weeks’ time they will see benefits reduced from €232 per week to under €39 per week.

The Ukrainian embassy responded with dismay to the announcement, warning that a change in social protection entitlements for vulnerable refugees could force them back to Ukraine.

“We hope that it will take into account the interests of particular categories of Ukrainian displaced people (elderly, women, children and people with special needs),” the embassy said in a statement. “These categories are most vulnerable as they have difficulties in finding jobs and usually live in rural areas. A significant change in the welfare they get would force them to go back to Ukraine, where the security situation is getting much worse amid Russian counteroffensive in the Kharkiv and Sumy region.”


A spokesman for the Government insisted that the cuts were “not an attempt to send Ukrainians home”, but senior figures privately admit that much of the Government’s attention is now directed at reducing the flow of migrants claiming asylum here. Making conditions here less attractive is now seen as a central part of this strategy.

“It’s about making the entire migration system sustainable,” the spokesman said.

The Government made clear that it will now consider further cuts to the entitlements of refugees and asylum seekers as accommodation pressure again lead to more tents being pitched at the Grand Canal in Dublin by men seeking asylum for whom the State has no accommodation.

There are no plans at present to remove the tents, which numbered about 50 on Tuesday evening, the Government said. But efforts are continuing to find venues to where they could be moved.

In a statement issued after the Cabinet approved the measures, the Government said that Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman would “review entitlements of international protection applicants and report back to Government within six weeks”.

Other measures being examined include fines on airlines, the expansion of the “safe country” list, and curtailing visa-free travel. In addition, Taoiseach Simon Harris indicated that the continued availability of accommodation in direct provision centres for people who have been granted refugee status is likely to be looked at closely. Mr Harris also made clear that the Government is contemplating further cuts in refugee entitlements.

“We’re not just reviewing payments,” Mr Harris told reporters, “we’re reviewing the entire kind of range of supports and how the State interacts. So, for example, you have many, many, many people who have status in this country who are through the immigration system and who are still living in free State accommodation without making a contribution.”

Meanwhile, official figures seen by The Irish Times show that more than 21,000 international protection applicants are awaiting a first-instance decision on their application despite Government moves to fast-track the cases of people from some countries.

Almost 100 people have been waiting more than two years for a first determination on their applications.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times