UNHCR calls for urgent action to avoid large numbers of asylum-seekers being left homeless and destitute

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling for urgent action by the Irish government to avoid large numbers of asylum-seekers being left homeless and destitute.

With accommodation shortages becoming ever more acute, UNHCR is concerned that the Citywest refugee processing centre in Dublin may be forced to close its doors to new arrivals in the coming days. The situation is likely to deteriorate further over the coming weeks and months with the withdrawal of several large hotels which are currently accommodating asylum-seekers.

“The response and generosity of both the Irish government and local communities over the last year has been remarkable in the face of unprecedented numbers of new arrivals”, said Enda O’Neill, Head of Office with UNHCR Ireland.

“However, it has been clear for some time that the Department of Integration’s reliance on privately contracted accommodation could not be maintained beyond an initial emergency response.  At the moment, it appears that only an urgent intervention at the most senior level across national and local government will prevent large numbers of people becoming homeless” he added.

As in other countries across Europe, Ireland has experienced an increase in the number of people seeking international protection. Some 70,000 Ukrainian refugees, representing some 1.4% of those registered for temporary protection or similar national protection schemes across Europe, arrived in Ireland in 2022.

Meanwhile, over 13,000 people applied for asylum, up from 2,583 in 2021. In light of this recent increase, a whole of government approach is vital to ensure the sustainability of the response.  

“In response to the outbreak of war in Ukraine, new structures were established to ensure effective coordination across government. If Ireland is to meet its legal obligations to provide accommodation for all of those seeking international protection, the same level of priority now needs to be given to this issue. Only by purchasing or building accommodation, by erecting adequate temporary shelter or prefabricated buildings on state land and by refurbishing suitable vacant buildings can the government hope to meet the anticipated needs for the year ahead."