More than 11,600 people in direct provision as numbers rise to record levels

Irish Refugee Council says responsibility for ending direct provision cannot rest with Department of Children alone, and all-of-government support needed

A record 11,689 people, including nearly 2,800 children, are currently living in direct provision, an increase of more than 40 per cent on the same time last year.

Some 6,266 people are currently living in direct provision centres, while 4,961 are staying in emergency accommodation and 462 are in the Baleskin reception centre, according to Government statistics released to The Irish Times.

This compares to the 8,260 people who were living in direct provision and emergency accommodation centres in June 2021. The figures equate to a 42 per increase in the space of 12 months.

The heightened numbers are the result of a combination of factors with, most significantly, the authorities having struggled to move people out of the system in recent years due to the ongoing housing crisis and the numbers arriving in Ireland having risen sharply again as international travel resumed as the effects of the pandemic eased.


At the end of April 2022, 2,873 people with immigration status were still living within International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS) because they were unable to find private housing.

Numbers in direct provision accommodation have not reached these heights since the early 2000s, when more than 11,600 applications for asylum were made in Ireland in 2002. That same year around 9,200 people were housed by what was then known as the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA).

A total of 26,500 people were housed in direct provision centres between April 2000, when the system was first introduced, and the end of 2002.

The latest peak in numbers comes nearly 18 months after the Government announced its White Paper plans for ending direct provision. The new accommodation system, known as the International Protection Support Services (IPSS), was scheduled to be fully operational by December 2024. While some measures, such as access to driving licences for asylum seekers and vulnerability assessments, have been introduced since last year, human rights and refugee support groups have warned that housing commitments are rapidly slipping.

The Department of Children, which is leading the changeover, told The Irish Times “extensive work” had been done in transitioning to the new model with a dedicated “transition team” working within the department to drive implementation. This team is currently working to “operationalise parts of the new system” by late 2022, said a department official.

A programme board, which includes NGOs representatives, has met regularly over the past 14 months, and an external advisory committee is also overseeing the transition, she added.

“Intensive co-operation” continues with the Department of Housing, the Housing Agency and local authorities, to develop the new accommodation model.

The Irish Refugee Council (IRC), which is a member of the programme board, said an “all-of-government” approach was needed, and that the Department of Children could not be left to tackle this issue alone.

“We recognise these are challenging times but the commitment to end direct provision must be honoured, it is a core commitment of this Government,” said IRC director Nick Henderson. “Bigger thinking is required... in crisis there is an opportunity to be radical”.

A key element of these changes is ensuring people have their asylum claim registered without delay and that temporary residence certificates, PPS numbers, medical cards and daily allowances are “swiftly issued”, said Mr Henderson.

The Department of Children acknowledged that the war in Ukraine, and arrival of around 33,600 Ukrainian refugees in Ireland, had an “unavoidable impact” on the White Paper timeline and that department staff had been “temporarily diverted to fulfil Ireland’s obligations”.

Around 24,200 Ukrainians have required housing support over the past three months, it said. However, just 234 Ukrainians have applied for international protection and entered the direct provision system, with the vast majority relying on the supports of the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive.

Despite these delays, implementing the new model by 2024 remains a “key priority”, said the department.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast