Dozens of Ukrainians at risk of homelessness as 90-day housing limit comes into effect

Ukrainian refugees have been told they ‘cannot access homeless services’, says Doras chief executive

A total of 2,228 Ukrainians, including 580 children, have arrived in Ireland since the Government changed its housing policy in March. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Dozens of Ukrainian refugees could face homelessness from this week as the Government’s 90-day limit on accommodation support comes into effect.

Ukrainians who arrived in Ireland on or after March 14th will begin to lose access to State-supported housing this week as part of the Government’s revised support system.

It is understood a handful of Ukrainians were asked to leave their State-provided housing on Wednesday but were quickly rehoused through pledged accommodation.

However, with close to 200 Ukrainians arriving during the first week of June, and an average 28 arrivals a day in May, dozens could be homeless within weeks, according to civil society groups.

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Ukrainian refugees had been told they “cannot access homeless services” and their “belongings will be transported away from their designated accommodation centre to a location from where they will have to make their own onward arrangements” once they reached 90 days, said John Lannon, chief executive of Doras in Limerick.

“Despite the best efforts of support agencies and organisations, there are families that have not been able to find anywhere to live beyond their deadline to leave the centre,” said Mr Lannon. He also expressed concern of the risk of “exploitation or extortion of people who are desperate”.

“Three months is not enough time to make the necessary connections to find work, so everyone is affected. But for families, in particular, finding arrangements that will keep them off the streets is impossible.”

‘There is nowhere safe in Ukraine’: Organiser criticises plans to impose 90-day housing time limit for refugeesOpens in new window ]

A total of 2,228 Ukrainians, including 580 children, have arrived in Ireland since the Government changed its housing policy in March. Just over 60 per cent of these accepted the offer of State accommodation.

Weekly arrivals dropped slightly in mid-April, when 128 people arrived, before slowly rising to 202 arrivals during the last week of May and 184 arrivals during the first week of June. More Ukrainian men (1,184) than women (1,044) have sought temporary protection in Ireland since March, contrasting with figures from 2022 and 2023, when most arrivals were women and children.

Last December the Government agreed to reduce the weekly allowance for Ukrainian refugees from €220 per week in jobseekers’ allowance to €38.80 per adult and €29.80 per child, and to limit accommodation supports.

Under the revised housing policy, Ukrainians who register for temporary protection are housed for 90 days in one of five designated accommodation centres in counties Limerick, Kildare, Cork and Waterford. Once they leave these centres, Ukrainians “are eligible to apply for standard social welfare assistance equivalent to Irish citizens, subject to meeting the eligibility conditions”, said a Department of Integration spokesman.

Ukrainians who have sought protection since March had been provided with “intensive supports” to help them source independent accommodation, including efforts to accept pledged properties which do not fall within the 90-day rule, said the spokesman.

An average of 30 people per week leave these designated accommodation centres – of these 55 per cent have found accommodation privately and 24 per cent have found a place to live through pledged properties. “The remainder have travelled from Ireland or chosen not to report on their arrangements,” he said.

The number of Ukrainians in State-provided accommodation has reduced from 60,000 in November 2023 to just under 45,000 on June 11th, 2024.

Former UN migration worker Olivia Headon, who is volunteering with homeless asylum-seeking men, accused the Government of assuming new arrivals had the community networks and financial resources to find a place to live. “If you don’t have enough resources, you’ll often go for the cheapest option, we’ve already seen this with other vulnerable communities. Also newcomers to the country might not be aware of their rights, that gives people the power to force them into an exploitative situation.”

The two-tier support system created for Ukrainians in advance of asylum seekers was now being removed by reducing supports rather than improving protections for all refugees and asylum seekers, said Ms Headon.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

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