State to spend €5bn housing asylum seekers over next 20 years, Ministers told

Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman presents plans to build facilities with 14,000 beds by 2028

Citywest

The Government will spend €5 billion accommodating asylum seekers in State-owned properties in the coming decades, Ministers have been told – although this will be significantly cheaper than sourcing beds in the private sector.

Briefing materials supplied to Ministers last week put the cost of supplying 10,000 beds for asylum seekers over 20 years at €5 billion, based on current prices – but argue that buying the same amount of accommodation sourced from the private sector would potentially cost billions more again.

These savings are not expected to accrue for several years, but will increase significantly in a time frame of 15-30 years, Ministers were told.

Under plans brought to Government last week by Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman, the Government committed to build out a “core” of accommodation consisting of 14,000 beds in State-owned facilities by 2028. It is expected that 35,000 beds for asylum seekers will be needed by the end of this year.

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This is four times the previous commitment made by the Government when it said it would scrap the direct provision system early in the lifetime of the Coalition – a process thrown badly off course by the surge in migration. It is also higher than the 10,000 figure privately outlined for Ministers last week, suggesting the final figure could be more than the €5 billion.

The figure communicated to Ministers is thought to be preliminary rather than a fully finalised proposal, and it is believed that Mr O’Gorman will be asked to closely monitor cost projections associated with the programme.

The new accommodation strategy approved by the Government seeks to wean the State off the private sector, where hundreds of millions of euro have been spent accommodating refugees from Ukraine and higher numbers of asylum seekers.

It is expected that between 13,000 and 16,000 asylum seekers will arrive into the country seeking protection annually from now on, in line with recent arrival figures. Private accommodation will remain a key part of the solution for the time being, and will also be used into the future – although at a lower level.

Three State-owned sites have already been identified but many more are expected to be built or procured, while existing accommodation centres may be expanded and upgraded. The first sites will be brought into use within months, the Coalition said last week, with an expression of interest for the possible purchase of accommodation centres due to issue in the coming weeks.

The Government has committed to a better geographic dispersal of applicants and also ending the reliance on opening new properties in unsuitable locations, or in settings which have a significant adverse impact on communities, such as in the sole operating hotel in a given town.

It is also examining the conversion of empty office blocks to accommodation units, with a variety of buildings now expected to come on stream between this year and 2028. Where it is focused on building new accommodation, the programme will have to deal with the same issues around capacity which have challenged the housing sector. Health Service Executive and other State lands are to be targeted for the use of prefabricated accommodation, with agreement on two sites already reached with the HSE and another from the Department of Justice.

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