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solidarity fund

State to pay €1.5m to EU over lack of accommodation for asylum seekers

Taoiseach says it is not realistic, legal, or practical to put a limit on the numbers of people coming into Ireland.

LAST UPDATE | 8 Jun 2023

THE GOVERNMENT IS set to make a financial contribution of €1.5 million to the European Union rather than take in a group of 350 people seeking international protection as part of a European solidarity agreement.

The Voluntary Solidarity Mechanism was set up to support member states along the EU’s external borders who are under pressure from those seeking asylum. 

Under the deal, Ireland has two options open to it to show its solidarity – one being that members states can choose to admit into their own country those that are seeking international protection in one of those frontline countries.

The other option is to pay into a fund that will be used to support countries along European borders, with the money being used to help with the supply of accommodation and other supports. 

In mid 2022, Ireland agreed to allow 350 international protection applicants from other EU countries into the country to be processed here. 

However, senior Government sources stat that it must now be recognised the significant pressure the country is under in providing accommodation, and therefore it has been decided that the Irish Government will now opt to make a financial contribution to the fund instead. 

Senior sources also sought to clarify that the €1.5 million is not a fine being imposed by the EU – but is a contribution. 

Minister for Finance Michael McGrath said the State’s capacity to provide accommodation is under severe pressure.

“The pressure that we are under is well known. We are now accommodating around 85,000 people, about 65,000 people are from Ukraine, and about 20,000 international protection applicants.

“People are very much aware of the pressures that are there, particularly around accomodation across the country.”

‘Things have changed’ 

Speaking on his way into Cabinet, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government had previously decided it would help the countries in the Mediterranean, because at the time they were experiencing a migration crisis with huge numbers of people coming from Africa.

“We decided that we would take 350 asylum seekers from those Mediterranean countries and house them here. Things have changed fundamentally since then. We’re now one of the countries under pressure taking in nearly 100,000 people. That changes things, so we are no longer able to accept people from the Mediterranean,” said Varadkar.

He said making a financial contribution instead is allowed under the voluntary effort sharing regulation.

“I know there are some people that would like us to put a limit on the number of people seeking international protection, but that’s not realistic, it’s not legal, it’s not practical. But we can manage the flow better. And that’s one thing that we’re trying to do,” said the Taoiseach. 

Labour leader Ivana Bacik today urged Varadkar to step up and take responsibility for the ongoing failures to provide shelter for people fleeing war.

She also raised concerns about the idea of floatels – which are being put out to tender – rather than using the swathes of vacant buildings nationwide to house those who need support and shelter.

“We know from the experience of other countries that there are potentially huge issues with floatels and it really begs the question – why is Government sending the message out to those fleeing war that all Ireland can provide is floating homes? It’s shameful that no one in Government is seeing the wood for the trees on this issue.

“Labour has consistently raised buildings like Baggot Street Hospital and Jurys Hotel Ballsbridge – surely sites like this would be much more suitable?” she said. 

Bacik said Government policy has remained entirely reactive, moving from crisis to crisis.

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