Religious group says dozens of properties made available for accommodation for refugees

Minister of State at the Department of Integration Joe O’Brien wrote to dioceses again in early March in an appeal to offer up vacant land and buildings

Religious orders have made dozens of properties available to accommodate refugees since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine more than two years ago, the Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland (Amri) has said.

The statement follows an appeal from the Government to the dioceses to offer up vacant land and buildings in an attempt to ease the strain on State services attempting to find beds for almost 1,700 international protection applicants who have been left without accommodation following their arrival in Ireland.

Amri, which represents religious institutes, societies of apostolic life and lay missionary organisations, said that since February 2022 “some 41 religious orders, congregations and societies in Ireland have made a range of properties available, including convents, retreat centres, former student houses, houses, apartments and individual rooms”. It said most of these had been provided “at no cost to the Government”.

A spokesman said “individual members of congregations/orders also provide pastoral care and various other supports such as English-language classes, counselling etc to integrate those newly arrived in the local community”.


He said Amri members had been “contacted for emergency accommodation for individual refugees/asylum seekers” and “where possible, answered this call”.

Minister of State at the Department of Integration Joe O’Brien wrote to the dioceses in early March and also appealed for more local authority lands or buildings to be made available by the County and City Management Association (CCMA) to help address the situation.

However, he was told that the ability of local authorities to provide additional buildings was “severely limited”. Mr O’Brien said he was “disappointed with the response”, adding that the number of Ukrainian refugees requiring so-called “rest centre” beds had dramatically decreased and that efforts should be made to use any vacant beds to address the accommodation crisis for asylum seekers.

The Amri spokesman said “increasing numbers” of the group’s members “are ageing and requiring diverse health, social and housing needs”.

“Some properties need to be modified, others sold as they are no longer fit for purpose. Some properties have been handed over or offered, to the State. Amri is not aware of the Government seeking to buy religious property.”

A spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin said the bulk of the former seminary at Drumcondra’s Clonliffe College site, the largest diocesan property, was “no longer in the ownership of the Archdiocese”.

However, he pointed out that “the former Mater Dei building within that complex and which remains in the ownership of the Archdiocese has for a number of years been made available as a family hub and currently accommodates 60 families”.

He said it was also the case that “parishes throughout the diocese routinely make facilities available for community use in line with pastoral needs, including services to support Ukrainian families and asylum applicants”.

A spokeswoman for Crosscare, the Archdiocese’s social care agency, said it “provides a range of support to people seeking asylum and those who have refugee status” including “homeless services, residential and housing welfare advocacy that people with refugee status can access”.

She said Crosscare has an outreach team that provides supports and “works with IPAS (International Protection Accommodation Service) in six different locations”. It also provided “an information and advocacy service for people seeking international protection”.

A spokeswoman for the Church of Ireland in Dublin said it had been contacted by the Department of Integration “in light of the severe pressure faced by the State in accommodating people coming to Ireland as refugees or seeking asylum”.

She said the church was “in the process of contacting all parishes in Dublin and Glendalough outlining the request from the Department, which is seeking land or buildings which could be adapted for short, medium or long term use to help alleviate the situation”.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times