Migrants coming to Ireland – apart from the 28,000 Ukrainian refugees – are now a strong cause of the renewed rise in homelessness, said Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien.
r O’Brien said growth in migrant numbers inside and outside the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes the 27 EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, is part of a Europe-wide trend and needs to be addressed.
The minister answered questions about a sharp rise in homelessness that became known over the weekend.
Housing Department figures showed 9,825 people were homeless in March — a 3.5 percent increase from February.
Mr O’Brien said part of the reason was a sharp rise in migrant numbers from the EEA and beyond, separate from the 28,000 displaced people fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Mr O’Brien said there was a need to put this issue in the EU context and he had already attended meetings at this level and had contacts with Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit from Luxembourg. He said it was important that any action respected EU and EEA rights to free movement.
“It’s not just about Ireland. But it makes it very difficult for us to plan for shelter capacity because we can’t predict week by week what the demand will be,” he told Newstalk on the plate.
The minister did not say how many additional migrants were arriving, insisting he could not speculate on the reasons for the surge as each migrant’s story is different. He said the EU-wide trend has shown an increase of up to 30 percent in recent months.
But Mr O’Brien said the migrants would promptly register as homeless and their needs would need to be met. Despite this trend, he expressed optimism about the housing supply and suggested that significant progress could be made this year.
“I cannot speculate as to why this trend is occurring. But it’s putting a heavy strain on our resources and has been for a few months. We have an obligation to provide support,” he said.
He said that despite this problem and the disruption caused by Covid-19, a total of 36,000 new homes have been started in the 12 months to last February. That was the highest number of new starts in a year since 2011.
He also said prospects for the provision of social housing this year are good, with a total of 9,000 new homes expected in this category. In addition, he expects 6,000 so-called “voids,” or out-of-service social housing, to come back into service in 2020 and 2021.
Mr O’Brien said the aim this year is to bring about 2,500 such vacated homes back into service.
He insisted that this process is not related to the urgent need to meet the shelter needs of Ukrainian refugees. The minister added that local authorities had been given a budget and a set of targets in relation to bringing homes back into service. The condition was that these should be given to people waiting for social housing.
He said the Ukraine war led to the largest human movement in Europe since World War II. This had resulted in Ireland seeing its largest influx of people ever in the last eight weeks alone.
He said public buildings would be “repurposed” in the coming weeks to make them suitable for housing Ukrainian people in need of shelter. However, he dismissed suggestions that the Ukraine crisis had “revealed” a slowdown in housing efforts.
The minister said since taking office on June 29, 2020, the government has continuously “ramped up” the provision of housing on a variety of fronts.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/migrants-from-countries-other-than-ukraine-adding-to-pressure-on-homeless-supports-housing-minister-warns-41606008.html Migrants from countries other than Ukraine are increasing pressure on support for the homeless, housing minister warns