UN body expresses concern over drastic cuts proposed to payments for Ukrainian refugees

People staying in State accommodation after fleeing war set to see benefits reduced from €232 to €38.80 per week from next month

The Government has been advised to “carefully consider” the impact of proposed cuts to social protection payments for Ukraine war refugees.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Friday expressed concern at the scale of the reductions, announced this week, and said “a thorough review of their impact” should be carried out before the changes take effect.

An estimated 27,000 Ukraine war refugees, who are not in work and live in “State-provided serviced accommodation” such as hotels and B&Bs where meals and other services are provided, are likely to be affected by the move. In six weeks’ time they will see benefits reduced from €232 per week to €38.80 per week.

The Ukrainian embassy responded with dismay to the announcement, warning that a change in social protection entitlements for vulnerable refugees could force them back to return to Ukraine as Russia launches a fresh offensive.


Further restrictions on benefits to refugees and people seeking asylum are to be considered in the coming weeks as the Government seeks to reduce the numbers arriving and ease accommodation pressures.

UNHCR said many of the 27,000 people living in State provided accommodation were “vulnerable, including children, older people, women at particular risk and people with disabilities”.

“Some of those affected may be unable to work or to sustain themselves and depend on ongoing support from the Government,” it said. “Care should be taken to ensure that these vulnerable groups are protected from any reductions that would have an adverse impact on them.”

The statement added that the proposed allowance of €38.80 was the same weekly amount currently provided to adult international protection applicants, “an amount which has not increased since 2019 despite significant inflation and cost of living increases”.

“UNHCR urges the Government to ensure that the proposed allowance is aligned with the increased costs of living and is sufficient to provide a dignified standard of living for all seeking protection,” it said. “UNHCR also encourages the Government to provide all necessary resources to support the self-reliance of refugees from Ukraine, so that people with valuable skills and experience can work and, where possible, rent independently.”

The statement added that barriers to employment should be tackled, including through enhanced access to language courses, affordable childcare, labour market supports and the recognition of prior qualifications and experience. Maintaining access to social protection benefits such as the Working Family Payment and Rent Supplement would support independence for those in low paid employment, it said.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times