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reception centres

Up to €10m extra 'social inclusion' funding signed off on for areas taking in asylum seekers

Decisions will be made by government ‘in the next couple of weeks’, says Varadkar.


UP TO €10 million funding for social inclusion measures has been signed off on for areas taking in asylum seekers has been signed off by ministers at a Cabinet subcommittee this afternoon.

The Cabinet subcommittee on Ukraine, which the Taoiseach said is “increasingly becoming the subcommittee on migration”, agreed a number of measures this afternoon. 

The additional resources for the social inclusion intervention fund is a 20% increase on the €48 million allocated annually, it is understood. 

The move comes after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said additional resources would be allocated to the ten regions that have taken in the most asylum seekers. 

In addition, it was agreed that extra people would be allocated to work with communities, under the remit of Minister of State for Community Development Joe O’Brien. 

Ministers also agreed that government could stop accepting new offers of commercial accommodation for Ukrainians.

Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman said this week that the overall figures of Ukrainians coming to Ireland had sharply declined in recent months from a level of 600-700 per week to about 150 per week in January.

Government sources have said some Ukrainians have decided to return home, while it is believed the flagged reduction in social welfare payments is also resulting in those from Ukraine choosing not to come to Ireland.

It was also stated that some, primarily those in employment, have left state-provided accommodation to seek their own housing in the private market.

However, the number of people seeking international protection remains a concern. 

‘Safe list’ review 

Separately, Justice Minister Helen McEntee told the meeting that she is reviewing the list of “safe countries” in a bid to cut down on the numbers arriving here seeking international protection.

Any decision on the changes to the list will be brought to Cabinet next week.

Sources stated that the meeting was “very engaging” and ministers recognised the challenges it faced.

There was also a discussion on the negative influence of the extreme far-right, but also a recognition that most communities have been exceptionally good in welcoming asylum seekers. 

Ministers also discussed the EU’s new asylum pact, the upcoming changes in social welfare rates and accommodation for Ukrainians, and the need for a communications campaign around the international protection system.  

Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman outlined fresh plans to acquire six large State-run reception centres for asylum seekers. However it is understood that there was no discussion of locations for the centres.

It is believed that the centres will accommodate over 3,000 people. Each centre would have the capacity to take between 450 and 600 people.

It is understood that following the subcommittee meeting today, the minister will bring a memo to Cabinet within the next two weeks outlining the process around how sites will be selected for the new reception centres. 

However, the Cabinet memo will not state where the centres will be located. 

While it is believed the preliminary work has already begun on where the centres will be located, site selection will begin once ministers have signed off on the plan. 

While sources could not give a timeline as to when all the centres will be up and running, it is expected that a number will be set up in a relatively short time period, with the majority in operation by the end of the year. 

The Journal understands that the location of each reception centre will require Cabinet approval and the locations could be approved in batches, as and when sites are acquired. 

Varadkar told reporters before the meeting today that government will decisions “in the next couple of weeks” on actioning a new longer-term plan to accommodate asylum seekers.

When it comes to the actions regarding Ireland’s migration policy, Varadkar said there are four elements -communication, enforcement, accommodation and communities.

On the issue of the last element, communities, he said there is a need to recognise that increased migration particularly from Ukrainians and international applicants “has changed the demographics and economics of a number of towns and districts around the country”.

“Most of those communities have been very welcoming, most of the time,” he said, adding that some of the regions impacted need community supports, through health, education, health resources, and policing.