Just days after a homeless Polish man was crushed to death in a bin he was sleeping in, it has emerged the number of destitute people from EU accession states seeking help to return home is on the increase.
The number using a Department of Justice-funded repatriation scheme had declined significantly every year since the recession began.
However, the number of people being repatriated because they are destitute has begun to increase for the first time since 2007.
In the first five months of this year 153 foreign nationals were flown back to their countries of origin after seeking help from the Reception and Integration Agency to go home on destitution grounds. That compares to 97 in the same period last year and 213 in all of last year.
If the trend to the end of May continues, about 370 will have availed of the scheme by the end of the year.
The increase in the first five months of the year – the most recent for which figures are available – is seen as significant because it is the first growth seen since 2007.
Fr Peter McVerry, who campaigns for the homeless, said it was difficult to know why the number of destitute foreign nationals was increasing at this time. "They may be at that last stage where they have hung on all they can but now they're really looking at a period of homelessness so they want to leave," he said.
Homeless services were "especially poor" for foreign nationals compared to Irish homeless people, he said. "The Irish can get a bed for six months in a hostel and it brings them at least some stability. But the non-Irish can only get a hostel bed for one night at a time."
He said services were allocated in that way to make it unattractive for foreign homeless people to stay in Ireland. This repatriation scheme is open only to those from the 12 EU accession states that joined between 2004 and 2007.
It is for those who came to Ireland to work, but after arriving may have become homeless or be in extreme hardship.
The State pays to put them in a hostel for one or two nights and gives them a ticket for a flight home the following day. It is a voluntary repatriation programme and is in no way linked to deportations.
The scheme began in 2004 and numbers peaked at 757 in 2008. Since then there has been a decline in numbers every year to 416 in 2011 and to 213 last year. Romanians accounted for 112 of the 213. They were followed by: Poles (31 people), Slovakians (17), Latvians (15) and those from the Czech Republic (15) among other places.
Meanwhile, the Garda investigation into the death of Henryk Piotrowski (43), whose body was found last Friday morning, is continuing.
Gardaí have enlisted the help of Interpol and the Polish authorities to help find his relatives in Poland.