Tuesday, February 28, 2023

By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

A national lead in charge of housing refugees and asylum seekers is needed in Ireland, a committee has head.

The Oireachtas Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth was urged to push this issue as a matter of priority, having been told “a different approach” was needed on migration.

It comes as Ireland continues with the challenge of finding accommodation suitable for tens of thousands of Ukrainian nationals and other international protection seekers who arrived in Ireland last year.

Private accommodation provided by hotels and B&Bs; refurbished buildings owned by the State; and rapid-build modular homes are among the strategies Ireland has pursued to house people quickly.

Concerns have been raised about the number of public buildings that have been offered in response to requests from the Department of Integration, and the number of hotels expected to end contracts with the State ahead of the upcoming tourism season.

During an appearance before the Oireachtas committee on Tuesday, groups raised frustration that a national lead to coordinate Ireland’s response on migration had not been pursued.

Nick Henderson, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council, said it had recommended in a crisis paper published in October that a refugee response director should be appointed.


He suggested that a lack of engagement from some government departments, which he called “deeply frustrating”, was an area where such a role could offer improvement.

“As an example, one thing that’s deeply frustrating at the moment is that people who arrive in Ireland may not be offered accommodation and they’re homeless,” he said.

“As an example, the lack of other government departments supporting people or at least responding to us.

“We sent out a letter to the Department of Justice, to the Department of Children, and the Department of Housing, saying that not accommodating people was a breach of the law – but if that is going to happen, you could take various mitigating measures to support people.

“Giving people information; supporting homeless services in the Dublin area; setting out clearly and in a language somebody would understand, what their rights and entitlements are, and we did that in mid January and we haven’t got a response.

“And that, we would imagine, is a very easy thing for somebody to do.”

New approach

Edel McGinley, director of the Migrant Rights Centre, also said a new approach was needed.

“For almost a year, we’ve been calling for central coordination, for somebody to lead that, and it’s fallen on deaf ears in government circles, across government, and in the Taoiseach’s office,” she said.

“And it’s exceptionally frustrating because you see the manifestation of this: the lack of coordination, the lack of an emergency approach that’s given to this issue by the government and by the Department of the Taoiseach.

“So I think it’s incumbent on this committee to really push for that and to really push for a whole of government approach, to support this minister in the delivery of that.

“We need a different approach now. And that really needs to be pushed at this point.”

Reuben Hambakachere, a community development worker with Cultur Migrant Centre, also raised concerns that the International Protection Office (IPO) has started accelerating asylum applications.

He said that applicants now have less time to get legal advice before submitting their questionnaire, which is used as a reference document throughout the process of applying for asylum.

He also said that people in Direct Provision should not be overlooked as part of the government’s “spring bonus” for social welfare recipients announced last week.

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