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UNHCR calls on the Irish Government to urgently provide safe accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers

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UNHCR calls on the Irish Government to urgently provide safe accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers

14 July 2022

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has called on the Government to act swiftly to ensure that refugees arriving from Ukraine and people seeking international protection in Ireland can be provided with accommodation that affords basic levels of safety and dignity. This follows the news yesterday that Citywest transit hub had reached capacity and that the State would not be able to accommodate those arriving overnight. 

“The Government is to be commended for its efforts to date in providing accommodation to the tens of thousands who have arrived in Ireland this year fleeing war and persecution. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the current approach of contracting accommodation from the private sector has reached its limits. Significant investment is now required by the Government to ensure that it has the capacity to meet the immediate need for shelter of new arrivals and to provide safeguards for the protection of children and other categories of vulnerable people”, said Enda O’Neill, Head of Office with UNHCR Ireland. 

UNHCR urges the Government to work with local authorities to speed up the refurbishment of vacant buildings around the country and to plan for the provision of adequate reception in a much more sustainable manner, including fast-tracking the building of six new reception centres as planned for in the Government’s White Paper on Ending Direct Provision. 

Whereas Ukraine's neighboring countries have received the largest numbers of refugees so far, more and more people continue their journey seeking a safe haven in countries such as Ireland. As long as this war continues, these numbers will only increase. Since February of this year, Ireland has granted temporary protection to 43,400 Ukrainian and other long-term residents fleeing the war there. This represents 1.18% of the total number of refugees from Ukraine (3,654,271) who have been registered for Temporary Protection or similar national protection schemes across Europe.  

Separately, Ireland has received approximately 6,480 new applications for international protection during the first 6 months of this year. This represents 1.67% of the total number of new applications in the EU+ area during this period as the rate of new applications increased significantly in comparison to the same period in 2021.  

UNHCR also calls on the Department of Justice to urgently deploy additional staff and resources to the International Protection Office to ensure it has the capacity to respond to the increased numbers of international protection applications. Long periods of time spent in State-funded accommodation leads to dependency and disempowerment among many people seeking protection, ultimately hampering their long-term integration prospects. 

Median processing times at the IPO in the first quarter of the year was 26 months for non-prioritised applications, and 18 months for prioritised applications.