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Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe Alamy Stock Photo

Government reviewing benefit payments for asylum seekers with decision to come 'in weeks'

Taoiseach Simon Harris has asked for the review to be conducted quickly.

THE GOVERNMENT WILL review payments made to asylum seekers and make a decision in the coming weeks, according to Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe.

Donohoe told reporters today that Taoiseach Simon Harris had asked for the review to be conducted quickly, with the aim of bringing Ireland more in line with other EU countries.

The number of people seeking asylum in Ireland and the dysfunction in the asylum system has continued to dominate political debates in recent weeks with more people people setting up tents along Dublin’s Grand Canal this weekend as the state struggles to find accommodation for them. 

“The Taoiseach has asked for this work to be done quickly,” said Donohoe. “This work will be done in weeks. And I know the government will act quickly on it once it is done.”

“We want to ensure that we are treating people compassionately and fairly as they come into our country seeking refuge. But we also want to ensure that we are acting in a way that is in line with similar offerings and similar decisions that are made across Europe.”

Donohoe said he recognised that people seeking refuge in Ireland “are doing so in very difficult and desperate circumstances at times”.

“But what we want to do is ensure that we have very firm, very clear, rules based system in place that is also compassionate,” he said.

He said that he also wants to make sure the Government is “making good use of the money of the taxpayer ” and treating people in a fair way. 

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 the country enjoys thanks to immigration, particularly for the economy, but said that benefits paid to asylum seekers need to be in line with other EU countries. 

The Taoiseach wrote in an opinion piece in the Irish Independent today that the Government was “working together to pull levers in a number of government departments to ensure Ireland adopts a firmer system and ensures we are not out of kilter with other EU countries”.

Harris said that this “will not be a long drawn-out process” and that the Government would make decisions on how to go about it soon.

Harris pointed to the EU Migration Pact, which the Government intends to sign up to, as one way of bringing Irish immigration policy in line with other EU countries.

The Pact is a set of legislation that would standardise immigration laws across the bloc. It has been widely condemned by humanitarian and civil society organisations as codifying and normalising the most hostile practices of EU border states.  

Opposition TDs have accused Harris and his ministers of using language that attempts to make the Government look tough on immigration. Harris recently referred to collections of tents outside the International Protection Office as a “shantytown” and more recently said encampments cannot be allowed “to fester”.

“He’s appearing to want to come across as some kind of a hardman on immigration,” Labour TD Ged Nash said on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics today.

In his article in the Irish Independent, Harris wrote:

“Governments who speak of enforcing rules on migration can be painted as inhumane, but that couldn’t be ­further from the truth. We have to help those in need and we cannot achieve that without rules-based ­systems that dismantle the criminal trafficking gangs.”

Harris and Donohoe both took aim at language used by Sinn Féin on the topic recently as well. 

They both referenced Sinn Féin’s stated position of opposing “open borders”, pointing out that the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland is an example of one. 

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