The Irish government is grappling with a looming crisis as accommodation spaces for asylum seekers teeter on the brink of exhaustion. According to senior sources, the country may run out of housing options for international protection applicants this week, sparking fears for their safety, especially in light of recent riots in Dublin.
Integration Minister's Alarm
Integration Minister Roderic O'Gorman brought the issue to the fore, cautioning his Cabinet colleagues about the imminent shortage of accommodation. The State may soon find itself incapable of offering shelter to asylum seekers. The situation is critical, with a "real risk" of asylum seekers, particularly single men, being forced to sleep rough in tents, even as women and children get prioritized.
Rising Anti-immigrant Sentiment
These fears are further stoked by the escalating anti-immigrant rhetoric in the country. There are concerns that asylum seekers forced to sleep on the streets may become targets of violence. The Department of Integration has hit roadblocks in procuring additional accommodation due to local protests disrupting services and hampering the procurement of new facilities.
Accommodation Crisis amidst Rising Asylum Seeker Numbers
Currently, Ireland is accommodating approximately 100,000 refugees and asylum seekers, including 74,000 Ukrainians and 25,500 international protection applicants. Despite Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's statement that the number of people seeking international protection this year will be lower than last year, recent weeks have seen an uptick in asylum seekers' arrivals, averaging 330 per week.
Government's Contingency Plans
As the accommodation crisis deepens, the government is exploring contingency plans, such as using sports halls and community centres for housing. However, the use of tents is being avoided due to the winter cold. Tanaiste Micheal Martin expressed grave concern for the safety of asylum seekers, acknowledging the stress on accommodation resources. He indicated that measures are being evaluated to ensure the state does not fall short of housing spaces for asylum seekers, underlining the situation's challenging nature.