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Migration

Taoiseach says plans to cut social welfare rates of some Ukrainian refugees is 'sensible'

It will not apply to Ukrainians living in pledged accommodation.

LAST UPDATE | 14 May

UKRAINIAN REFUGEES in state-provided serviced accommodation are to receive the same rate of payment regardless of when they arrived to Ireland, under new proposals agreed by government today.

Ukrainian refugees in state accommodation, regardless of when they arrived here, will receive a social welfare payment of €38.80 for adults and €29.80 for children.

There are currently thousands of Ukrainian refugees on the Jobseeker’s Allowance rate of €232 per week, but under the new plan, the payments will be cut in three months’ time.

The social welfare reforms will have a 12-week lead in time to allow Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman and Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys to give notice to the people affected.

The changes will affect Ukrainians primarily staying in hotel and B&B accommodation and other serviced accommodation where people are provided with a bed, hot meals and utilities. 

It also will not apply to Ukrainians who live in State-provided accommodation that is not serviced, such as a converted building.

A government spokesperson confirmed today that it is estimated 27,000 people could be impacted, though they stated the final figure is yet to be assessed. 

It will not apply to Ukrainians living in what is termed pledged accommodation, such as people living in homes which have been offered by members of the public, it has been confirmed. 

The plan is about “balance” and “equality” in the level of payments, the government spokesperson said today, who denied that this was a government initiative to move people out of state-provided accommodation or as deterrent measure. 

Questions posed about the new migration measures being part of electioneering were denied by the spokesperson this afternoon.

The proposals come as Taoiseach Simon Harris has called for a “consistency of approach” around payments and supports offered to Ukrainian refugees.

“It doesn’t seem sensible to me that you could have two children from Ukraine at the same school today in a very different system of treatment for one person’s family versus the other,” Harris said on his way into Cabinet this morning.

“There needs to be a consistency of approach.

“Obviously, we have many people from Ukraine in our country. Many of them are working and making a valuable contribution to business right across Ireland, all of them with a legal entitlement to work.

“I think we need to see that consistency of approach in relation to welfare and we need to make sure the system is financially sustainable.”

The change in approach has been criticised by Labour leader Ivana Bacik who said it will predominantly impact the elderly and women with young children who have fled the war in Ukraine. 

“Because we know that nearly half of those Ukrainians who are here are already in work and those who are in receipt of state supports by and large are older persons or women with small children who can’t access childcare and we really want to ensure that we are fair and compassionate to those who come here from Ukraine, where we’re seeing such terrible escalation of Russia’s violence ongoing,” Bacik said.

She added that the Government must also provide clarity on what is proposed in the review overall. 

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Union triggered a temporary protection directive to offer assistance to those fleeing the war.

It places obligations on EU countries to give certain rights to the beneficiaries of temporary protection (BOTPs) including residence permits and access to suitable accommodation.

Today’s proposal is the latest change the government has made to social welfare payments for Ukrainians.

In March, changes were made which meant that new Ukrainian arrivals who opt to stay in designated accommodation centres for up to 90 days are paid €38.80 subsistence allowance per week and an additional €29.80 per child.

Arrivals had previously been entitled to a Jobseeker’s Allowance rate of €232 per week and unlimited time in State accommodation.

The changes introduced two months ago did not apply to those who arrived before the March deadline. Only new arrivals from Ukraine were subject to the reduced payment.

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Review of asylum seeker benefits 

Other measures agreed by government today include a review of entitlements of International Protection applicants being carried out. 

The move was flagged by Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe over the weekend.

It is understood the review of such entitlements are to be reported back to government within six weeks.

People in the Direct Provision system currently receive a weekly payment of €38.80 per adult and €29.80 per child.

Donohoe also emphasised the benefits that Ireland enjoys as a result of immigration, particularly for the economy, but he said that benefits paid to asylum seekers need to be in line with other EU countries. 

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The number of people seeking asylum in Ireland and the dysfunction in the asylum system have continued to dominate political debates in recent weeks.

It follows an increase in people setting up tents in Dublin, including along Mount Street and the Grand Canal, as the State struggles to find accommodation for them. 

Ireland has granted more than 105,000 temporary protection orders since the start of the war in Ukraine, and almost 72,000 international protection applicants are in State-provided accommodation.

Workplace inspections

It was also agreed that Minister for Enterprise Peter Burke will aims to increase workplace inspections in sectors or firms where there is a risk of non-compliance with employment and workplace requirements and permit regulations.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee, along with Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin also agreed to report back to government regarding an the ongoing review of safe countries, and a review of visa-free travel from all States from which there are significant numbers of international protection applicants.

Work will continue to increase staff at the International Protection Office (IPO), with an aim of producing faster processing times.

It is believed that more “safe and sanitary accommodation facilities” where international protection applicants can stay on state land is also being sought.

The new measures are being pitched by those in government as a whole of government approach on migration. 

Speaking yesterday, Taoiseach Simon Harris signalled that today’s memo to Cabinet would “see changes in a number of areas”, while adding: 

“Migration is a good thing. What is not a good thing is not having a consistent, coherent approach to it.”

- Contains reporting by Jane Matthews and Press Association.

Need more clarity and context on how migration is being discussed in Ireland? Check out our new FactCheck Knowledge Bank for essential reads and guides to finding good information online.

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