Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Noel Baker

New figures show that almost 450 Ukrainians have entered the Direct Provision system since the start of last year.

The total number of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war is now more than 75,000, but figures provided by the Department of Justice show a much smaller number have elected to enter the asylum process.

The figures show 422 Ukrainian nationals applied for international protection last year and another 15 did so in the first six weeks of 2023.

A Department of Justice spokesperson said they would not comment on an individual’s reason for claiming international protection, but added: “Generally, you can apply for international protection in Ireland if you have come to Ireland to escape persecution in your own country, or if you cannot return to your country because you have a well-founded fear for your safety.

“There is no requirement for Ukrainian nationals to seek international protection to receive the support and protection of the Irish State, although any person who indicates their wish to apply for international protection will be admitted to the international protection process and have their application considered.”

The vast majority of Ukrainians who have entered Ireland since the Russian invasion have availed for the EU Temporary Protection Directive, which provides permission to reside in Ireland for a period of one year initially, which can be extended in line with agreement at an EU level.

It also allows for access of the labour market, accommodation, social welfare income supports and access to education and medical care.

Fiona Hurley, CEO of support organisation Nasc, said: “Less than one per cent of the people fleeing the war in Ukraine have sought International Protection, rather than the Temporary Protection Status. This very small minority who seek International Protection when fleeing Ukraine have, in our experience, recognised that return to Ukraine will be impossible for them. This may include people who experienced torture or were in Russian filtration camps or were displaced following the annexation of Crimea in 2014. They want to secure their future in Ireland beyond the potential three years of the Temporary Protection Directive.

One year on since the invasion of Ukraine, much of the Irish public’s response has been very supportive of those seeking protection.

“The vast majority of people arriving in Ireland from Ukraine are benefiting from the Temporary Protection programme, which was recently extended until March 2024. Thankfully, this gives people an immediate right to work, and an opportunity to live safely and securely. One year on since the invasion of Ukraine, much of the Irish public’s response has been very supportive of those seeking protection.”

Those applying for international protection are entering a system where there are now record levels of people living in IPAS accommodation, including more than 5,000 people who have already secured permission to remain in the country.

New data from the International Protection Accommodation Service shows IPAS Accommodation capacity is it an all-time high, with 19,741 people living in either direct provision centres which includes state provided accommodation, as well as emergency accommodation centres consisting mostly of hotels, B&B’s and guesthouses.

At the start of last year the comparable figure was just 8,000, and such is the current rate of people seeking international protection since the start of this year that the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Affairs said the pressure on state accommodation was now “immense”.

According to Fiona Hurley: “There is an increasingly widespread awareness that accommodation centres in Ireland often do not have adequate resources and that the variable living conditions can further harm the wellbeing of people seeking asylum. We understand that there is unprecedented pressure on the government to source suitable accommodation, and we are highly concerned for those people who are being placed in unsuitable environments, often without receiving effective communication about how long they might be there.”

Between 2017 and 2019 an average of 3,500 people applied for protection here each year, whereas last year more than 15,000 people arrived in Ireland seeking accommodation while their applications for international protection are processed by the International Protection Office (IPO).

According to a Department spokesperson, a similar number may arrive this year.

“In the first six weeks of 2023 over 1,530 people have arrived seeking international protection in Ireland,” the spokesperson said. “The most recent seven-day average count for those seeking accommodation stands at 255. Projected arrivals for 2023 based on 2023 arrivals to date suggest that over 13,300 people may arrive in Ireland seeking international protection.”

The figures show that 5,040 people who have been granted a permission to remain in the state are still in IPAS accommodation – more than the 4,636 people who were last year left IPAS accommodation because they had been granted status or had previously secured it.

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