The number of people in emergency accommodation and direct services in Ireland has reached its highest level ever, while refugees from Ukraine are starting to be accommodated in tents as the international protection system comes under strain.
New figures from the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) show that there were 10,463 people in Irish direct provision and emergency accommodation centers as of March 30.
This is a 25% increase since December 2021 and means there are 3,486 more people in the system than at the same time last year.
The increase is due to a surge in applications following the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions and does not include arrivals from Ukraine under temporary protection, a government spokesperson said.
However, more than 6,200 Ukrainian refugees had applied for housing assistance from IPAS as of Friday.
IPAS has contracted more than 2,500 hotel rooms specifically for Ukrainians, but many would be accommodated in the same hotels and emergency reception centers as asylum seekers.
Around 600 Ukrainians arrive in Ireland every day and more than 15,000 are already in the state.
Anzhelika Samuilova, an immigration lawyer working with Ukrainian arrivals, told Buzz she understands there are no more hotel spaces available.
“Refugees are being placed in tents inside sports centers and alternative accommodation that were previously empty,” including Dublin’s Citywest Convention Centre, she said.
Although grateful to be housed and safe, some are living in “very poor” conditions while waiting to be assigned more permanent accommodation, Samuilova added. Photos seen by Buzz show camping-style cots crammed into tight rows inside tents equipped with electric heaters and lighting.
A spokesperson for the Department for Children, Equality, Disability, Inclusion and Youth (DCEDIY) said the Citywest site hosts a “check-in operation” which is “implemented place to provide basic refreshments and a place to rest before moving on to their hotel accommodation”. .
Rise in asylum applications
Many more people than usual were already seeking protection in Ireland before the invasion of Ukraine.
More than 3,300 people applied for asylum in Ireland between October 1, 2021 and February 20 this year, Equality Minister Roderic O’Gorman told the Dáil earlier this month.
This “sharp increase” was due to the lifting of travel restrictions in Ireland, he said. Buzz understands that Afghans and Syrians may have been the source of additional applications.
The system is now approaching its full contracted capacity of 10,902 residents. Complaints of overcrowding in emergency accommodation and direct care centers were already common.
John Lannon, CEO of refugee charity Doras, said the state’s “rapid response” to the Ukraine crisis “must be replicated for all members of the international protection system“.
“Many asylum seekers in emergency accommodation are now wondering why they went without a PPS number for months, while others by their side were processed quickly,” he told Buzz. “Their right to protection is equal to the rights of Ukrainians, and the state’s responsibility towards them does not diminish due to recent events.”
The record number of IPAS accommodations will raise questions about the government’s plans to end direct provision by 2024. While the government expects around 2,800 people in the system to apply for a new scheme to regularize long-term undocumented migrants is only a fraction of the total.
A spokesperson for DCEDIY told Buzz: “Arrivals from Ukraine are entering the state under EU Directive 2001/55 on temporary protection and bear no relation to the number of arrivals seeking asylum. international protection.
“The number of people seeking international protection has been steadily increasing and is more likely associated with the easing of Covid travel restrictions.”
The government is already building a tented camp in Gormanston, County Meath, as a “contingency”, which it says could be needed within weeks to cope with the unprecedented number of Ukrainian refugees.
Meanwhile, just 547 of the 3,047 vacant properties inspected by the Defense Force this week as part of the Irish Red Cross appeal have been found ready to move into.
A spokesperson for the Red Cross said it was stepping up efforts to find and verify additional spaces in shared accommodation or even commercial properties.
While the task of finding housing for all is not easy, Lannon said, “It is the responsibility to ensure that vulnerable people are not left behind in unsuitable accommodation. A coordinated response is needed between departments to ensure that all aspects of service delivery meet standards.”