The Government could run out of accommodation for asylum seekers as soon as this week, Coalition sources have said.
The Department of Integration has been facing increasing challenges in securing beds for international protection applicants fleeing here in recent weeks amid growing community resistance.
Three sources involved in the effort to find beds said there is likely to be a significant shortfall in the run-in to Christmas, with two agreeing the State could run out of beds as soon as this week, saying that contingency plans were being developed.
However, the prospect of single men being turned away and being forced to source their own accommodation – with some ultimately sleeping rough – is a real one, sources indicated.
Tánaiste Micheál Martin said the Government is facing a “challenging situation” in finding accommodation for asylum seekers, and said that any existing concerns for their safety would be “exacerbated” if the applicants found themselves homeless.
“We are very conscious of pressures on accommodation. The Minister for Children has advised that he is looking at measures to make sure that we don’t get to that situation next week. But there are challenges. It is a challenging situation.”
Asked if he would be concerned that homeless asylum seekers might be targeted, he said: “Generally speaking I would be concerned for their safety in any situation. We had some indication last week there were people giving out again and protests outside various centres which is unacceptable given the terror that can create for people, anxiety and fear. That applies in any particular context but obviously in a homeless context … that would be exacerbated. We are very conscious of it.”
In response to a query submitted last week, the Department of Integration said that there has been a steady increase in arrival numbers since mid-June. A total of 1,785 people seeking international protection arrived during June and July in 2023, while 2,450 arrived in September and October.
A spokesman for the department said: “Should demand continue to outstrip supply, particularly for single male adults, the department will remain under acute pressure to accommodate all those who require it while their claim for asylum ... is assessed.”
Nick Henderson, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council, said on Sunday that if international protection applicants slept rough they could find themselves being targeted.
“Given what happened on Sandwith Street in May [when a tent belonging to an asylum seeker was burned] and the shocking events of Thursday, we believe that international protection applicants would be targeted if they had to sleep rough. Worth recalling that, amidst the chaos of Thursday, two IPAS [International Protection Accommodation Services] centres were targeted, we understand luckily no one was harmed.”
“We implore all of Government to continue fulfil its legal obligations to accommodate people seeking protection and ensure people’s basic needs are met. Given the risk to people on the streets, this is now more important than ever and a matter of basic safety.”
The Government has turned to tented accommodation amid pressures on other forms, with 437 people currently accommodated in tents. The Department of Integration said that as of the 19th of November, Ireland is now accommodating nearly 100,000 people between those fleeing Ukraine and International Protection applicants.
This included more than 74,000 Ukrainians seeking accommodation and over 25,500 International Protection applicants.
“In recent months, it has become increasingly challenging to open new accommodation for those seeking International Protection, particularly male applicants,” a spokesman for the Department of Integration said. “As a result of this, the Department is facing the real possibility of a shortfall in accommodation in the coming days. Officials are continuing to work at maximising the use of available accommodation.”
A group of senior officials working on the refugee accommodation issue is due to meet on Wednesday and a meeting of the Cabinet subcommittee on refugee accommodation is said to be planned for next week.