Ukrainian refugees to pay for accommodation, have social welfare benefits changed, says Varadkar

Planned measures are needed to slow refugee numbers so State can ‘catch up’ on accommodation provision, according to Taoiseach

The Government hopes to introduce measures before the end of this year to require Ukrainian refugees to pay for their accommodation and change their social welfare benefits, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

The details have yet to be agreed and any changes to social welfare benefits will require legislation, but both measures will be introduced at the same time.

“Ukrainians will still be welcome here. Any Ukrainian coming to Ireland is not going to be turned away, that’s not going to happen. The situation that we have at the moment, though, is that the numbers have been very large. It’s putting huge pressure on accommodation,” the Taoiseach told reporters during his visit to Seoul, South Korea.

“We need to take action that will slow the numbers coming in, so we’ve got more time to catch up on accommodation and other issues.


“And it makes sense in that context for us to look at what other western European countries do and see that our offering is something similar to that. So other countries don’t offer, for example, unlimited state-provided accommodation at no cost,” the Taoiseach said.

Mr Varadkar said about 30 per cent of the 500 to 800 Ukrainians arriving each week had claimed temporary protection in another European country before moving to Ireland.

About 14,000 Ukrainian refugees are already in the workforce but the Government is considering changes to social welfare benefits to encourage more to take jobs.

“We can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that we have an accommodation shortage. We’re in the situation now where we’re accommodating people in tents and people in heated cabins,” Mr Varadkar said.

“I remember in my first term as Taoiseach, when there’s a very strong campaign on to end direct provision, which is a policy that I support, I remember saying: look around Europe and see what the alternative is to direct provision – it’s tents and it’s containers.

“And that’s the point we’re now at in Ireland, where we’ve accommodated 100,000 people, more than 100,000 people in the past two years. We don’t have the accommodation, we’re using tents, we’re using containers. That’s not a situation we want to be in. But if we can slow down the numbers entering, then we have a chance of getting on top of that.”

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times