Hoteliers Declining to Host Refugees Due to Fear of Protests and Local Opposition
Jack Horgan-Jones, Irish Times, February 4, 2023
Hoteliers are backing away from Government contracts to host refugees due to fears about protests and local opposition, senior Coalition members have been warned.
Papers drawn up for a high-powered Cabinet committee highlight the “emergence of significant protest and local opposition to proposed and recently opened accommodation”.
The papers, seen by The Irish Times, warn that this is “contributing to provider reluctance to engage on accommodating IPs [International Protection applicants]” with the department “meeting significant resistance [from providers, communities and others] when trying to accommodate IPs”.
Following a week which saw increased policing presence at protests, as well as an anti-immigration activist charged with incitement to hatred and barred from social media, there is significant concern within the Coalition over the political fallout and the scale of the accommodation crisis for those fleeing the war in Ukraine and elsewhere.
According to figures given to the committee, just 30 per cent of providers have signed a new contract with the State. While nobody has refused the contract yet, Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman told The Irish Times that even a 10 per cent refusal would have a “significant impact” on accommodation capacity. The papers outline that there is a “risk of losing up to 8,000 beds” with providers returning to the tourism industry for the summer.
The Department of Integration also warned that public services where there was a high concentration of people who had fled to Ireland were “under strain”.
Ministers were told that “time is urgently required to plan in detail for integration, given rising community cohesion, tension and disruption concerns, and exploitation by the far right”. The document outlines that “a significant short-term accommodation shortfall is still projected”, with the situation “adding to existing housing and homeless challenges”.
Mr O’Gorman wrote to Ministers last week seeking large vacant buildings like sports centres or conference facilities where “camp beds, mattresses, sleeping bags could be set out for people”. His Cabinet colleague, Minister for Sports Catherine Martin, wrote to sporting organisations under her department seeking buildings on Friday.
The Government has also requested further work on alignment between Ireland and the benefits other countries offer people who flee Ukraine and relocate to the European Union. All countries are bound by the Temporary Protection directive to provide access to welfare, working rights and other entitlements, but it is enacted in different ways around the bloc.
A senior source told The Irish Times that a subgroup is to be set up to look at supports in other countries and come back with “specific recommendations” for the Cabinet committee. A paper drawn up for this week’s meeting compared Ireland with other EU countries, finding similar offerings to Germany and Belgium, but also instances such as Croatia and Sweden where some welfare payments aren’t available, or jurisdictions where welfare payments are staggered differently. A scheme run in the Netherlands offering non-Ukrainian citizens who fled the country a plane ticket and a €5,000 payment was also described.
Sources familiar with the document said it states that “research suggests reducing or limiting the scope of Ireland’s offering would more greatly align our position with the overall approach being taken in other member states”. The “overall offering,” it goes on, “has more elements and is unlimited – different to some other EU member states”.
Mr O’Gorman said the Government was keeping a “close eye” on what other EU countries were doing. Asked if changes could be considered to entitlements, he said if measures were adopted on a European-wide basis, “I think we endeavour to keep ourselves consistent with a pan-member state approach”.