All supports for refugees and asylum seekers to be reviewed, Taoiseach says

Harris says ‘many, many, many’ people who have been through immigration system still live in ‘free State accommodation without making a contribution’

The full range of supports provided to refugees and asylum seekers, including accommodation for those with permission to remain in the State, is to be reviewed, Taoiseach Simon Harris has said.

More than 5,600 people who have been granted permission to remain in Ireland following a successful asylum application are still living in the direct provision system.

The Government has written to them on several occasions asking them to find their own accommodation due to an ongoing chronic shortage of beds for those entering the system. However, Opposition politicians have argued that many successful applicants are effectively trapped in direct provision as a result of the housing crisis.

Mr Harris said the entire range of supports for international protection applicants would be reviewed but that a wider assessment would also be taken of how the State interacts with those seeking asylum and those who have been given permission to remain.

READ MORE

“Were not just reviewing payments we’re reviewing the entire range of supports from the State and how the State interacts,” he said, adding there were “many, many, many” people who had been through the immigration system and had status “who are still living in free State accommodation without making a contribution”.

The Fine Gael leader also said there would be an assessment of when the obligation to pay social welfare ends in relation to the asylum process. He said it was not “necessarily about a headline rate of payment but more about how the asylum system and the accommodation system interacts”, adding that Ireland should align with standards elsewhere in the EU.

“Ireland benefits from migration. Immigration is a good thing, but at the same time we have to make sure that our system is working, that our system is efficient and effective and meets a common sense test,” he said.

Mr Harris said proposals to cut payments to Ukrainian refugees would ensure “consistency” for those fleeing the war and others coming to Ireland. At Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, Ministers discussed proposals to decrease welfare entitlements for Ukrainian refugees, reducing the payment they receive from €233 per week to €38.80 regardless of when they came into the country

“What we want to do here is make sure we have a sustainable migration system and we have a consistency of approach in relation to a range of issues around welfare and accommodation,” he told reporters on his way into the meeting.

He said Ireland was a “compassionate” country but that this needed to align with common sense.

Ministers will also review plans to restrict visa free travel from countries with high numbers of asylum applicants and will be updated on a review of the safe country list, applicants from which are eligible for faster processing.

Later Mr Harris rejected Sinn Féin claims of “abject failure” in dealing with immigration as the Opposition called for a debate on issue.

Mr Harris told the Dáil the Cabinet had on Tuesday considered a series of actions “to make our immigration system more sustainable ... I’m very satisfied that a number of the actions that we’ve taken today are very much that whole of Government joined up approach we want”.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said evidence of the Government’s “failure” on immigration was the situation at Grand Canal in Dublin where “the State pays money to distribute tents to these vulnerable people and then, at the far end, commits money to have these tents removed only for more tents to appear. This is utterly scandalous”.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said there were now 48 tents on the canal as she called for an urgent debate on the provision of sustainable accommodation. She also highlighted the “attacks on people sleeping in tents, attacks on volunteers who are helping them”.

Social Democrats housing spokesman Cian O’Callaghan accused the Government of engaging in “State-sponsored vandalism that is desecrating the city” through the erection of fencing.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said it might suit the Government to “point the finger at migrants” but the Government had failed to deliver on social and affordable housing or on its commitment to provide an annual progress report on Housing for All.

Mr Harris said a debate on immigration – which was sought by the Opposition – could be facilitated and he had “no difficulty” with a debate on either it or Housing for All.

Meanwhile, Minister for Finance Michael McGrath on Tuesday said a Belfast court ruling, that parts of the UK government’s Illegal Migration Act do not apply in Northern Ireland, raised “concerns” for the Government about more asylum seekers potentially coming to the Republic via Northern Ireland.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, he said: “Anything that results in Northern Ireland as part of the overall island of Ireland becoming more attractive than Great Britain when it comes to asylum seekers seeking somewhere to make their claim does raise concerns.”

The Minister said the Government was expected to raise the matter with their British counterparts “very shortly” through political and diplomatic channels.

Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting also saw Ministers discuss plans to increase the minimum age for tobacco product purchases to 21, the extension of rent pressure zone rules and plans to provide further supports to small businesses.

Read More

Recommended