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Simon Harris speaking to reporters in Brussels this evening.

Harris says Ukrainians leaving state accommodation will free up space for other asylum seekers

In the first twelve weeks of 2024, there has been more than 75% increase in arrival numbers.

IN THE FIRST 12 weeks of 2024, there has been more than a 75% increase in the number of international protection arrivals compared to the same period last year. 

Officials from the Department of Integration will outline to the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC) tomorrow that international protection arrival numbers are on a “significant upward trajectory”.

Kevin McCarthy, the Secretary General, Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth will tell the committee that last year, over 13,000 people arrived in Ireland seeking protection, averaging 250 people per week.

12,000 of those sought accommodation from the State.

In the first twelve weeks of 2024, over 5,100 people claimed international protection, compared with 2,900 people for the same period in 2023 – a more than 75% increase in arrival numbers.

The committee will hear that procuring enough bed space to keep pace with incoming arrivals remains extremely challenging, particularly so in the case of accommodation for single males.

When asked about the data this evening in Brussels, Taoiseach Simon Harris said there is a need for government to procure “turn-key” accommodation, similar to Citywest.

The Taoiseach said he received a briefing yesterday from Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman, stating that the stats he was told were “quite insightful”.

Ukrainians leaving state accommodation

“What we’re now seeing in relation to Ukrainian people specifically, is every day 15 people from Ukraine on average are seeking state accommodations, but 45 people from Ukraine on average are leaving state accommodation,”  he said. 

Harris said by his math, roughly 175 fewer Ukrainian people in state accommodation each week will free up accommodation for other people seeking asylum. 

He said now is the time for the Department of Immigration to begin to “take stock of the overall numbers of contracts and obligations it has in relation to housing in general”.

“Secondly, I think it does merit reflection because we did take policy interventions recently in relation to reducing, for example, welfare benefits for people coming into our country and we have seen a significant reduction,” he added. 

The government’s longer term plan for accommodating asylum seekers comes off the back of an acknowledgement that the current process of being wholly reliant on the private market is not sustainable, said Harris. 

He highlighted that the Cabinet took the decision to extend the lease on the Citywest complex for another year, stating: “I do think we now need to see proposals put forward very quickly in relation to other turn key type opportunities that may exist in relation to international protection.”

The Taoiseach said he will soon convene a Cabinet committee on migration.

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