‘It is shocking’: Government criticised as 150 Ukrainian refugees in direct provision

Pressure to accommodate refugees has led to some being placed in direct provision centres

A total of 150 refugees from Ukraine are in the direct provision system which is intended for those whose status as refugees has not been established.

New figures released by the Government show that, over the past decade, 279 people from Ukraine who have applied for asylum have ended up in direct provision.

The majority of those, 153, have been accepted this year into the direct provision system and are staying at designated centres throughout the State.

The fact that the refugees are ending up in these centres reflects the enormous pressure Irish authorities have been under to house the large number of people who have come to Ireland after fleeing the war in Ukraine.

As of the end of last month, a total of 33,230 Ukrainian nationals had come to Ireland since the outbreak of the war in late February, of who 23,894 had sought emergency accommodation. Almost 10,000 others are staying with relatives or friends, most of whom are Ukrainian.

Of the 129 who arrived into Dublin Airport on May 31st, a total of 110 sought emergency accommodation.

The information on Ukrainians staying in direct provision centres was supplied to Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín on foot of a parliamentary question.

“It is shocking that Ukrainian refugees are ending up in the direct provision system,” he told The Irish Times. “This is something I predicted would happen given the initial lack of Government planning or co-ordination on the issue.”

Mr Tóibin said there was a wider issue of people who have been granted refugee status being unable to leave direct provision because of the unaffordable costs of housing. He said this was deeply unjust.

“Statistics previously released to Aontú show that there are many people currently living in direct provision centres despite having qualified for refugee status. They feel stuck and cannot leave the system, some for up to six years.

“The system of host families for genuine refugees who cannot find accommodation and are forced to remain within direct provision should now be looked at. It is absolutely intolerable that people are forced to stay within direct provision centres for so long even after refugee status has been granted,” he said.

The Meath West TD called on the Government to update its plan to end direct provision.

“The number of people in direct provision is increasing. We need to also aim for a reduction in the time it takes to process applications,” he said.

Figures released by the Department of Children earlier this year did show an increase but also showed an increase in the number of “own door” accommodation units being provided. Until now most direct provision centres have used communal facilities for dining and for recreation.

In a separate response, the department said that the total of 218 refugees who have come to Ireland from Afghanistan since August 2021 are being hosted by Irish families or communities. A total of 545 refugees from Afghanistan have come to Ireland in the past 10 month under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme.

The number of programme refugees coming from temporary accommodation in Greece (mainly Syrian refugees) fell off dramatically in 2021 compared with previous years. A total of 523 came in 2017, and 268 in 2018.

There were few transfers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Figures released by the department showed only 50 people who were living in refugee camps in Greece came to Ireland under the programme last year.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times