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UN refugee agency 'concerned' by Government plans to cut payments to Ukrainians in Ireland

UNHCR also encouraged the Government to make it easier for Ukrainian refugees to find work and rent their own accommodation.

THE UN’S HIGH Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said it is concerned by the Government’s recent decision to stop benefit payments to Ukrainian refugees living in state provided accommodation. 

The planned cuts will mean that Ukrainian refugees in serviced 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.

Details of the reductions are still being worked out but the Government intends to implement them within 12 weeks. 

UNHCR described the reductions as “a drastic cut” while urging the Government to “carefully consider” their scale and to carry out a thorough review of their impact before implementing them.  

It said that many of those in state provided accommodation are vulnerable, including children, older people, women at particular risk and people with disabilities. 

“Some of those affected may be unable to work or to sustain themselves and depend on ongoing support from the government,” the UN agency said.

“Care should be taken to ensure that these vulnerable groups are protected from any reductions that would have an adverse impact on them.”

UNHCR also commented on the €38.80 allowance, which is the same amount given to people in the Direct Provision asylum seeker system, saying that the Government should increase it to account for inflation and the increased cost of living that have affected the country since the rate was last set in 2019.

When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the EU invoked for the first time an emergency measure that meant Ukrainians fleeing the war did not have to go through the regular process of claiming asylum. 

The allowance should be “sufficient to provide a dignified standard of living for all seeking protection”, UNHCR said. 

UNHCR also encouraged the Government to make it easier for Ukrainian refugees to find work and rent their own accommodation.

“Barriers to employment should be tackled, including through enhanced access to language courses, affordable childcare, labour market supports and the recognition of prior qualifications and experience.”

Taoiseach Simon Harris has described the proposed cuts as “sensible” and the Government has argued that the move is not about appearing tough on immigration – now a major issue in political polling – but bringing the payments made to Ukrainians in line with those made to other asylum seekers and those made in other EU countries.

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