Ukrainian refugees to have welfare allowances cut from €232 per week to €38.80, under new plan

Jim O’Callaghan says Government could designate Northern Ireland a safe third country after Belfast judgment

Ukrainian refugees and activists protest outside the Russian embassy in Bucharest, Romania last year. File photograph: Robert Ghement/EPA

Ukrainian refugees who fled to Ireland between 2022 and early 2024 face having their allowances cut, within three months, from the full jobseekers’ rate of €232 per week to €38.80 per week.

A memo to be considered by Cabinet on Tuesday will put many of the 100,000 beneficiaries of temporary protection who arrived during the first two years of the war, and who are not working, on the same level of allowances as those who have arrived since March this year.

There will be a 12-week lead in time to allow the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and the Minister for Social Protection to give notice to the people affected.

The change is one of a number contained in a memo to Government designed to tighten up migration measures.


The memo, brought by Taoiseach Simon Harris, will also involve a review of entitlements of international protection applicants, an increase in workplace inspections for illegal employment and a further review of the list of safe countries.

It comes after the High Court in Belfast ruled that parts of the UK government’s Illegal Migration Act do not apply in Northern Ireland. The ruling led to claims it could cause an increase in the number of asylum seekers crossing the Irish Sea.

The court ruled on Monday that provisions of the Act would undermine human rights protections guaranteed under post-Brexit arrangements. The Act provides new means to deal with people who have entered Britain illegally. Central to it is a scheme to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda to have their applications processed.

DUP leader Gavin Robinson said the striking down of parts of the Act in Northern Ireland would make it a “magnet” for asylum seekers seeking to escape the Rwanda policy.

In Dublin, the Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan said the likelihood was that the numbers applying for international protection in the Republic would increase as there would be a rise in those travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland to avoid being sent to Rwanda.

What implications does the Belfast asylum seeker court ruling have for the Republic?Opens in new window ]

“Asylum seekers in the North can be treated no less preferably than those in the Republic,” he said. “The arrival of more asylum seekers on the island of Ireland will inevitably mean more will apply for international protection in the Republic.”

Mr O’Callaghan, a TD for Dublin Bay South, also suggested there was now “nothing to stop Ireland from designating Northern Ireland as a safe third country to where asylum seekers could be returned”.

Mr Robinson said the UK government had allowed an immigration border to be created in the middle of the Irish Sea, knowing the likelihood that such a judgment would be made.

“It is imperative that immigration policy applies equally across every part of the United Kingdom,” Mr Robinson said.

British prime minister Rishi Sunak responded by saying the ruling would have no implications for the UK government’s controversial Rwanda policy.

“Nothing will distract us from that or delivering to the timetable I set out [to begin transfers to Rwanda],” Mr Sunak said.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said it “was studying the judgment carefully”.

Privately, Government officials in Dublin said it was unclear if the ruling would lead to a reduction in the numbers of asylum seekers travelling South from Northern Ireland. One person familiar with the system said that the motivation for asylum seekers to come here is complex, involving factors such as the speed of processing of their application, language, welfare benefits and social networks.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said the corollary of more people travelling to Northern Ireland to avoid being transferred to Rwanda was that more people would also cross the Border and seek asylum in the South.

“The Irish Government must now engage with the British government to ascertain how that will be managed. The loud-hailer diplomacy that happened before the English local elections will not cut it,” Mr Tóibín said.

“The Common Travel Area is key to both countries. It won’t work if both counties operate radically different immigration policies.”

Speaking on Monday, Taoiseach Simon Harris said that the Government would look at “welfare consistency”, the possibility of those people with status to make contributions to the cost or their State-provided accommodation and to allow more workplace inspections to ensure that people were working legally.

“We want to help people but we also want to know that the system is fair,” Mr Harris said on Newstalk Radio.

Mr Harris also signalled that the capacity of the Government at present was to provide shelter for people, but not housing.

“We can absolutely provide shelter but not necessarily housing for people who come here,” he said.

Thornton Hall in north Dublin is one of the sites under consideration for use as emergency tented accommodation, as are a number of other sites owned by the Office of Public Works and the Health Service Executive.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times