Refugees seeking to leave direct provision accommodation face ‘significant challenges’, report finds

Barriers include language difficulties and ‘discrimination’ in housing market, including from landlords and letting agents

Discrimination by landlords, the housing crisis, and exclusion of refugees from Government housing targets are among barriers to people with permission to stay in Ireland leaving direct provision accommodation, a report published on Monday warns.

The report, titled Access To Autonomous Housing For Beneficiaries Of International Protection In Ireland, comes as Government struggles to source accommodation for newly-arrived asylum seekers. As of Friday a total of 1,966 male asylum seekers were “awaiting offer of accommodation”, up 69 since Tuesday.

Published by the Economic and Social Research Institute, it says “significant challenges and barriers” are faced by beneficiaries of international protection (BIPs) trying to find their own housing, resulting in “almost 6,000 people with status remaining in International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS) accommodation as of January 2024″.

This amounts to 22 per cent of all people in IPAS accommodation – “a significant increase from 2020, when around 14 per cent...had [refugee or international protection] status”, it says.

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They must contend with not only the issues faced by anyone trying to secure housing, including “severe shortages in the supply of social housing and affordable rental housing [and] inadequacies in supports such as the housing assistance payment (HAP)” but also barriers specific to them.

The include language difficulties; a lack of knowledge or information about the housing system; mental health issues “arising from their background and the international protection system”; and, “discrimination” in the housing market including from landlords and letting agents.

“This was found to be based on the individual’s ethnicity, immigration status, HAP status and the fact they were coming from IPAS accommodation,” says the report.

Further challenges arose from “existing policies concerning this group” such as the fact many were in “isolated reception centres” which impacted on employment outcomes, mental health, access to services and social connections.

Though several NGOs are funded to support the migrants in navigating the housing market these are inadequately resourced and overburdened, it says. The Depaul and Peter McVerry Trust charities “highlighted... the large number of people being supported by each caseworker”, the report notes. “As of January 2024, there were approximately 185 BIPs (representing 112 households) per caseworker.”

In the report concerns are highlighted that “potentially vulnerable” migrants may be accepting inadequate housing “including poor standards of housing, housing not meeting the needs of BIPs, and low-quality or insecure tenancies” though there is no means of tracking this.

Several NGOs said: “BIPs do not appear to be taken into account in national housing planning or housing policy” despite the fact they number several thousand households and “often have different needs to other populations” such as access to services.

Meanwhile, the number of tents at the latest encampment of homeless asylum seekers in Dublin grew over the weekend to 40.

Between 20 and 30 tents were pitched by migrant men on Thursday night on a patch of grass near Leeson Street along the banks of the Grand Canal.

After gardaí asked the men to move the tents for their own safety twice during the night, it appears some men left the area. By Friday morning about 20 tents remained.

By Sunday morning, there were about 40 tents pitched around the perimeter of offices at Leeson Street and on to Fitzwilliam Place.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times