Refugees remaining in direct provision after being allowed stay in Ireland could be charged rent – ​​The Irish Times

Refugees remaining in direct provision after being allowed stay in Ireland could be charged rent – ​​The Irish Times
Refugees remaining in direct provision after being allowed stay in Ireland could be charged rent – ​​The Irish Times

Refugees who remain in direct provision after being given permission to stay in Ireland could be charged rent as part of an overhaul being planned by the Government.

There were 5,644 people with permission to live and work in the country in direct provision at the end of last month, according to figures from the Department of Integration. The figure remains stubbornly high despite a significant increase in those leaving State accommodation

Now senior Coalition figures say the imposition of rent, or of another charge, is being considered. However, any move would have to overcome concerns, with some in Government cautious about whether a charge would encourage people to leave or embed them further in State accommodation.

One source warned charging rent “might mean someone feels more entitled to stay,” while a second cautioned creating a landlord-tenant relationship could lead to unforeseen consequences.

Sources believe the option is favored by Taoiseach Simon Harris, who referred to the number of people in this category frequently last week. Nearly 1,200 people with permission to remain have left State accommodation in the first three months of the year, compared with 733 in 2022 and 2,002 last year.

The issue is expected to be debated during a review of entitlements for those in the asylum system, due in six weeks.

It comes amid tensions behind the scenes over the extent of reforms being announced on refugee and asylum seeker policy, as well as criticism from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees over recent welfare cuts.

Multiple sources said there had been friction between politicians and officials, including over changes agreed by the Cabinet which will reduce benefits for Ukrainians in State accommodation to €38.80 per week from €232.

The UNHCR advised the Government to “carefully consider” the impact and expressed concern at the scale of the move, arguing a “thorough review of their impact” should be carried out before it takes effect in 12 weeks.

Sources said there were concerns over reforms going to Cabinet before being fully ironed out. One example offered was that Ukrainians in some instances make a contribution to their food and board which exceeds the intended level of the new weekly payment.

It has also emerged that the Department of Justice made an order for the transfer of 246 asylum seekers to other countries on the basis that the other member state should process the application – but only five transfers have happened.

Information given to Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy shows that between April 2023 and April 2024, 246 transfer decisions were taken under the Dublin Regulation. The data shows that 90 of those orders came between January and the end of April this year, but only two transfers happened during that time. Only three happened last year between last April and the end of 2023.

In response from Ms Murphy, the department said it was possible for applicants to appeal transfer decisions, and the vast majority did so.

“As a consequence many of the above transfer decisions are currently under consideration by IPAT [International Protection Appeals Tribunal]”, while countries could decline transfer requests.

Ms Murphy said: “People want to see a system that works and that is fair, but they also want to know that when an issue like this arises where there is a transfer order, that those rules are followed too.”

Meanwhile, there has been an uptick in numbers coming from Jordan in recent days, which Government sources attributed to a visa change in the UK. Applications from the country grew from six during January to 201 so far in May.

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