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Emergency accommodation for asylum seekers costs three times more than Direct Provision centres

Over 1,000 asylum seekers are now living in hotels and B&Bs around Ireland.

Clayton Hotel, Liffey Valley in Dublin.
Clayton Hotel, Liffey Valley in Dublin.
Image: Sam Boal

PROVIDING EMERGENCY ACCOMMODATION for asylum seekers in Ireland costs nearly three times more than Direct Provision centres.

Since September 2018, people seeking international protection in Ireland have been placed in hotels and B&Bs due to pressures on Ireland’s Direct Provision system. 

The average daily rate across Direct Provision centres is €35, according to the Department of Justice & Equality. The average cost for emergency accommodation is €100 per person per night. 

So far, the Department has spent over €12 million on emergency accommodation. Until new Direct Provision centres come on-stream, the Department’s Reception & Integration Agency (RIA) will continue to contract hotels and B&Bs, it has said. 

There are currently over 1,000 international protection applicants living in emergency accommodation with 30 hotels and B&Bs in 12 counties contracted by RIA to provide bed and board.

Various groups – including MASI, Irish Refugee Council and migrant rights centre Nasc – have continually hit out at the use of hotels and B&Bs. 

‘Unsustainable’ 

Fiona Finn, CEO of Nasc, told TheJournal.ie that at “a cost of €500,000 per week, the current use of emergency accommodation is unsustainable and is failing to serve either the State or asylum seekers.

“It is deeply worrying to Nasc that funds for asylum seekers are going into the hands of profit-making firms and individuals,” she said. 

A spokesperson for MASI, meanwhile, said that “living in such overcrowded rooms…is incredibly dehumanising as it strips a person of their fundamental human right to privacy.”

A number of issues for people living in emergency accommodation highlighted by TheJournal.ie include difficulties accessing GP services, delays in PPS numbers being allocated in order to receive weekly payment, lack of educational access for children and unsuitable accommodation.

Criticism has been levelled at a lack of vulnerability assessments for people entering the country before being moved directly to emergency accommodation. These assessments aim to identify specific reception needs for people. 

Most recently, TheJournal.ie reported ongoing difficulties for people living at The Clayton Hotel in Dublin. 

‘Rising Costs’

The government plans to end its use of emergency accommodation by late 2019 as it seeks to open new Direct Provision centres. 

However, public procurement difficulties experienced by RIA alongside issues for Direct Provision residents finding suitable accommodation in the rental sector once granted leave-to-remain, has forced RIA to contract hotels and B&Bs. 

RIA planned to accommodate people in more permanent Direct Provision centres yet this was not possible following arson attacks at hotels in Moville, Co Donegal and Rooskey on the Roscommon-Leitrim border.

A spokesperson for RIA has said “during the past twelve months, there has been a rise in the number of applications and this, combined with well-documented difficulties experienced by the RIA in opening new [Direct Provision] centres, has stretched the system to its full capacity.”

“New Direct Provision Centres are expected to come on stream shortly,” they said. 

In July, Hatch Hall Direct Provision centre in Dublin closed ahead of its redevelopment into a five-star hotel. 

The cost of Direct Provision is expected to top €120 million this year compared with €78 million in 2018.

Around one third of people living in Direct Provision access an ‘Independent Living Model’ which costs the Department €44.15 per day, compared with €35 for remaining Direct Provision centres. 

MASI has recently highlighted differences in service provision for those living in Direct Provision centres against people living in emergency accommodation, despite hotel and B&B owners being paid more by RIA per night.

A recent Direct Provision spending review noted that the total cost of emergency accommodation is expected to reach €20 million this year. 

Contracting hotels and B&Bs is “significantly more expensive than RIA accommodation centre costs,” the review notes. “Costs have further increased due to higher season pricing for the summer period.”

The review recommends that a procurement process be developed, one that is “responsive to demand…and implemented to minimise use of emergency accommodation.”

Nasc’s Finn has said RIA should have foreseen these current capacity issues. 

“The increase in numbers seeking asylum in Ireland was clearly predicted by the McMahon Report and, in fact, we had slighter fewer asylum seekers in 2018 than predicted by the report,” Finn told TheJournal.ie.

“Additional infrastructure should have been put in place from 2015 onwards however there was a failure to plan for additional numbers.”

In June, retired High Court Judge Dr Bryan McMahon, who chaired 2015’s working group report into the Direct Provision system, said he was “totally against” the use of emergency accommodation for asylum seekers and called on RIA to expand its stock by building on State-owned sites.

Deputy Secretary General Oonagh Buckley of the Justice Department told an Oireachtas Committee in June that the same standard of services in Direct Provision centres could not be provided in emergency set-ups. 

‘Short-term basis’

Since hotels and B&Bs first came into use, only 285 people have been re-accommodated to Direct Provision centres.

The EU Reception Conditions directive, which Ireland signed up to last year, states that the Minister for Justice may provide emergency accommodation. But it must be for “as short a time as possible”. 

Ireland is also legally required to conduct vulnerability assessments, which aim to identify special reception needs for asylum seekers and refugees.

Hotels and B&Bs will be in use on a short-term basis, the department has maintained, despite a number of applicants living in emergency accommodation since last November.

The Department confirmed to TheJournal.ie that it also has no role in carrying out inspections of emergency accommodation set-ups nor can it permit visits but said that RIA staff hold clinics where they meet with residents in emergency accommodation to address concerns. 

“The Department does not control access to private premises and for that reason, we are not in a position to allow a visit in the same way that is possible at RIA [Direct Provision] centres,” the spokesperson said. 

“RIA typically contracts a defined number of rooms within existing commercial hotels and guest houses and therefore does not have exclusive use of the premises,” they added.

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