The Government is not able to say when it will be in a position to provide accommodation to all asylum seekers coming into the country.
Since Sunday, single men who are seeking International Protection have not been accommodated due to pressures on the State’s capacity to provide beds.
Speaking after cabinet today, Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman confirmed that the government had decided to increase the payment to International Protection applicants who are not accommodated by €75 on top of the existing weekly payment of €38.50, bringing the total weekly payment to €113.50, which he said would enable them to supply some supports for themselves.
Mr O’Gorman said his Department has “line of sight” to “some” additional accommodation before Christmas and after the festive period and will seek to look to add more.
However, he said in terms of the arrival numbers that have been faced in recent months, “I don’t have immediate line of sight to when we’ll be in a position to say everyone is now getting an offer of accommodation immediately.”
He said that people who are not accommodated may take legal action, but that increased payments would also have to be considered by the courts in any case taken against the State over failure to provide the required protections to asylum seekers due under international obligations.
He said his Department was working with two homeless organisations to help provide basic services such as showers, and would be looking to provide additional services to those applicants who may be at risk of homelessness.
The additional payment will be discontinued when a person is given an offer of accommodation, he said, adding that Belgium and the Netherlands had given similarly enhanced payments when they were unable to accommodate people.
Earlier on Tuesday, the chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Sinead Gibney, has said there is an urgent need for a “robust, mature” system to deal with the reality of the numbers seeking International Protection (IP) in Ireland.
The situation is no longer “unprecedented”, she told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland. Since war broke out in Ukraine, it had been known that “this was coming” and that the pressure on services was likely to happen.
The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of the Department of Integration yesterday started to turn away some asylum seekers due to a lack of beds. Some 32 IP applicants were not offered accommodation on Monday, according to the Department of Integration.
It is the second time this year asylum seekers will have to sleep rough due to the State’s inability to accommodate them. Asylum seekers forced to sleep rough due to an expected lack of State accommodation will have access to drop-in centres during the day. They will also be provided with tents and sleeping bags, the department said.
The decision by IPAS to turn away some asylum seekers will likely apply to single adult men at first. Asylum seekers who cannot get access to State accommodation when they arrive in Ireland will get a weekly payment of €75 under fresh plans due to go to Cabinet. This is an increase on the existing €38 per week payment provided.
Ms Gibney said that handing recently-arrived applicants vouchers and a sleeping bag is not the solution, particularly at a time when temperatures were falling and there was anti-immigrant sentiment in the wake of the recent Dublin riot.
Homeless services are already stretched to capacity and the State was not meeting the basic rights of international asylum seekers in line with its EU obligations, she added.
Ms Gibney acknowledged the “incredible work” that had been done to date by “State employees and civil society”, but pointed out that people had the right to seek IP in Ireland and they had the right, while that claim was being processed, to have their basic needs met. “It is impossible to see how that’s happening in this sort of circumstances,” she said.
“We knew this was coming, the State knew this was coming, the Government knew this was coming. And since the war started in Ukraine 18 months ago, we knew that these numbers were likely to happen. The projections all said so.
“What we need is a robust system, a mature system that deals with what is now a reality, which is the constant movement of people. These numbers aren’t going anywhere. They’re only going to increase with climate crisis. So what we need to see is a system like our health system or our education system, which deals with that reality in a mature way.”
The secretary general of the Irish Red Cross, Deirdre Garvey has called for a whole of Government approach to the accommodation problem.
No one should be without shelter no matter from where they came, she told RTE radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.
Unused larger buildings such as office blocks or warehouses could be used to provide temporary accommodation, she said.
“Nobody should be without shelter, whether they be Irish, whether they be Ukrainian or whether they be from further afield seeking international protection and refuge. Living on the street in a tent is simply not safe. And that’s really the basic fact of the matter.”
Ms Garvey pointed out that the Government had a list of commercial properties available to it, along with State-owned properties such as nursing homes or psychiatric facilities. She acknowledged that there were practical fire safety and compliance issues, but they could and should be clarified and then resolved rather than purchasing tents and increasing benefits for people living on the street.
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