State told to overhaul migrant housing plan, set up six new centres and abandon hotel use

Unpublished paper developed by Department of Integration makes several recommendations

'It is stunning that we have significant capacity that is not being used … to bring people off the streets,' said the Refugee Council of Ireland.

The State needs to overhaul its plan to reform direct provision and revisit how it houses asylum seekers and refugees in light of the current crisis, an unpublished paper has recommended.

The paper, which was drawn up for the Department of Integration, recommends that six new “phase one” reception centres be established around the country. It also advises that the Department of Integration should be given a budget for “large scale capital investment” to acquire accommodation and that it should abandon the use of private accommodation like hotels — which has “serious limitations” — with two new reception centres recommended for purchase this year or early next.

It suggests setting up a new agency to oversee the system and advises that the State should plan for 14,000 asylum seekers arriving in 2023 and 2024, and for a possible increase of 10 to 15 per cent in addition to that.

On top of that, it says it would be prudent to plan for at least 30,000 arrivals from Ukraine in 2023. It says it is vital that the current whole of Government approach to the crisis “be transformed as much possible into permanent structures”.

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The paper was drawn up by a subgroup of a programme board which itself was established to oversee the implementation of the White Paper to End Direct Provision, which has been overtaken by the migration crisis.

It calls for a “fundamental reassessment” of the plan to implement the White Paper with assumptions underlying it “no longer appropriate”. The situation has created “unprecedented challenges” for the Department of Integration in meeting its obligations to international protection applicants and those fleeing the war in Ukraine — but also creates a “unique opportunity” to build on the “remarkable mobilisation across Government” seen in the last year.

Senior Coalition sources said on Friday evening they had not yet seen the leaked document.

Minister of State for Integration Joe O’Brien is visiting the Co Clare hotel at the centre of a stand-off. Video: Enda O'Dowd

It comes as the Government pushes ahead with its plans to open more accommodation centres for refugees and asylum seekers after a week of protest at a hotel in Co Clare.

The Department of Integration this week distributed advance notification for two more centres as well as the four it said it intends to open in the coming weeks — with the number of unaccommodated asylum seekers falling significantly to 300 from over 500 on Friday as new beds came on-stream.

Documents seen by The Irish Times show that there are plans to accommodate 66 men in the Dublin suburb of Ranelagh, as well as a further 77 people in Co Clare — this time in the east of the county, at a hotel in Scariff.

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Between the six projects, the department ultimately envisages bringing 1,061 new places on stream. While this would be enough to accommodate those who have not been offered a bed, many are only coming on a phased basis, with the Government promising an initial 350 across four projects.

Moreover, it has also emerged that hundreds of beds in so-called rest centre-style accommodations were not being used for asylum seekers. According to the figures, there are almost 1,250 vacant beds. Minister of State for Integration Joe O’Brien called for the beds to be put into use to house those who are seeking international protection from countries other than Ukraine. The Department of Housing said it was “engaging” on the request.

Refugee Council of Ireland chief executive Nick Henderson said it was “stunning that we have significant capacity that is not being used … to bring people off the streets. This goes to the heart of what an ‘all-of-Government’ approach should actually mean”.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

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