Ireland is “perilously close” to not being able to offer accommodation to asylum seekers, the Department of Justice has admitted.
Five counties have more than 100 asylum seekers in emergency accommodation, while 847 people with permission to remain here are in direct provision centres because no other accommodation is available. The 39 centres are full.
The pressure on the direct provision system, and the need to expand capacity, has been a longstanding issue and the Department of Justice has been in discussions about using Department of Defence assets to open up more spaces.
Figures provided to the Irish Examiner show the scale of the problem, with a spokesman for the Department of Justice admitting urgent measures are needed.
“The department continues to evaluate tenders received and will progress the remaining tender competitions in the Dublin and border regions,” he said.
“It is imperative that we do so to avoid a situation where accommodation cannot be offered to people who arrive seeking protection.
“Ireland is perilously close to this scenario, given that the 39 existing centres are operationally full, with 6,085 people accommodated, and that there are 1,500 people currently being accommodated in temporary accommodation, in hotels and guest houses, and new applicants are arriving every week.
“As of 11 November, 2019, there were 1,499 asylum seekers residing in temporary accommodation; 37 hotels and guesthouses are currently in use in 17 counties on a temporary basis.”
In Cork, there are 101 asylum seekers in emergency accommodation; in Dublin, 406; in Monaghan, 209; in Wicklow, 152; and in Wexford, 114.
The problem extends to those who can not leave direct provision because of a lack of options.
“Of the 6,085 in accommodation centres, there are 847 persons with permission to remain who continue to reside in centres, while awaiting availability of other appropriate accommodation,” said the spokesman.
“The number of applicants for international protection has been steadily increasing [up 60% to date this year]. To cope with the increased demand for accommodation from applicants, the Department of Justice is running procurement competitions on a regional basis throughout the country and has invited premises to tender to offer accommodation and other services.
Last year, 3,673 international protection applications were received, the highest number in recent years, while 1,034 people were granted refugee status/subsidiary protection, which was considerably higher than in previous years.
The department said it had, in conjunction with a number of charities and non-government organisations who were awarded funding for projects, helped 675 people move from state-provided accommodation to permanent homes in the community. This figure relates to the period from the beginning of the year to the end of October.
It also said it has introduced a number of measures to reduce the time to determine applications.
The department spokesman said: “An interdepartmental group has been recently established to enhance provision of services from the range of departments and agencies involved in the provision of direct provision services.
“Furthermore, the former EU Commission secretary general, Catherine Day, is currently chairing a group examining international best practice in the provision of services to international protection applicants, with a view to advising government on medium to long-term service provision.”