Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Payments for Ukrainian refugees to be cut under Govt plan

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Ukrainian refugees who came to Ireland in 2022 and 2023, and who are in State-provided accommodation, will have their payments cut from €232 a week to €38.80, under a memo going to Cabinet.

Ministers will consider a memorandum which will lead to all recipients of temporary protection status receiving the same benefits, regardless of when they first entered the State, while the entitlements of International Protection Applicants are also being reviewed.

Speaking on his way into Cabinet, Taoiseach Simon Harris said Government wanted to “make sure we have a sustainable migration system” and “a consistency of approach” in this area when it comes to social welfare supports and accommodation.

Mr Harris said that Ireland “is a compassionate country, but compassion does need to align with common sense”.

“It doesn’t seem sensible to me that you would have two children from Ukraine in the same school today in a very different system of treatment for one person’s family versus the other,” Mr Harris said.

In addition to having a “consistency of approach” Mr Harris said it had to be “financially sustainable.”

According to the latest report issued by the Department of Integration there were 46,981 Ukrainians living in State-provided accommodation, such as hotels and guesthouses, as of the 5 May.

The Department gives the number living in pledged accommodation as 18,752 on that date, and it is not believed that they will be effected by the change.

Just 521 Ukrainians who arrived since 14 March are living in designated accommodation sites and are in receipt of reduced financial supports of €38.80 per week.

More than 100,000 Ukrainians have come to Ireland under the temporary protection directive since March 2022, following Russia’s invasion of the country.

However, some have since left the country, and in the last CSO ‘Ukrainians in Ireland’ update in February, around 80,000 had activity on their PPSN allocation in the previous three months.

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Just under 18,000 Ukrainians were registered as being employed in the same CSO update.

Last December, the Cabinet agreed to reduce welfare rates and to limit State accommodation for new arrivals from Ukraine to 90 days.

Under a new plan to be considered by ministers, all beneficiaries of temporary protection will receive the same rate of payment, regardless of when they arrived in Ireland.

There will be a 12-week lead-in time before the changes take affect.

It would mean that the current jobseekers’ rate of €232 per week will fall to €38.80 for Ukrainian refugees in State accommodation.

Calls for clarity over fairness of scheme

Labour leader Ivana Bacik has expressed concern at the plan, claiming such a policy could amount to targeting of older people and women with children.

She called for “clarity” that the new Govt policy will be fair.

She said the announcement of a review of payments to International Protection applicants appeared to coincide with the upcoming European and Local elections.

The founder of Effective Aid Ukraine also said the decision is unfair and lacking in compassion.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, Tom McEnaney said the move will adversely affect elderly Ukrainians, women and children.

He said that 18,000 children are likely to be badly affected by this change.

Mr McEnaney dismissed the move as a measure aimed at garnering votes from an anti-migrant section of society.

It is completely unfair to ask people to live on €37 a week, he said, adding that “it is a hardship level of subsistence”.

There has been zero engagement because there is zero attempt to do this fairly, Mr McEnaney said.

Unlike most other countries, Ireland does not provide military aid to Ukraine, he said.

Review into entitlements for asylum seekers

Meanwhile, the Cabinet will also order a review of entitlements for asylum seekers applying for International Protection, with a report to be completed within six weeks.

On this, the Taoiseach said the Government “are not just reviewing payments, we are reviewing the entire range of supports”.

“For example, you have many people living who have status in this country, who have come through the immigration system, who are living in free State accommodation without making a contribution, how do you best address that situation,” Mr Harris said

The Taoiseach said that “would always live up to its international obligations” and that he wanted Ireland “to be in line with the European Union” when it came to supports.

Mr Harris said that he didn’t think that “anyone could argue that if we didn’t take these measures that the system would be sustainable into the future” given the increase in numbers arriving in Ireland seeking protection in recent years.

The Taoiseach said that Ireland would meet its obligations to provide shelter to asylum seekers.

Other initiatives include Minister for Enterprise Peter Burke ordering an increase of the inspections of workplaces to ensure regulations are being enforced.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is also due to report back to Cabinet shortly on her ongoing review of safe countries.

Once a country receives such a designation, applicants for International Protection must have their cases decided within a maximum of 90 days.

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