For immediate release, Press Release: Friday 23 February 2024

Figures released by government today state that 1,010 people seeking international protection are without accommodation. Figures also show that few people are being subsequently accommodated: since 2 February figures indicate only nine people have been subsequently accommodated. 

Responding to this bleak milestone, the Irish Refugee Council reiterates its call for urgent, all of government cooperation and coordination to address the unfolding crisis and draws attention to existing capacity that could be used. 

Judgments of the High Court in April and December 2023 found that Ireland is in breach of its obligations under Irish and European law by not providing reception conditions to protection applicants. 

Protection applicants forced to sleep rough are in increasingly unsanitary and dangerous situations, exposed to severe weather and at risk of serious harm. We are also concerned that, as the number of people without accommodation has increased, already stretched homeless support services may not be able to meet the escalating demand on them. In a period of significant hostility towards immigrants and those in the protection process, the State must fulfil its legal obligations and act to resolve this emerging humanitarian crisis.

In a briefing note to government, sent in December 2023, the Irish Refugee Council stated that capacity does exist to accommodate people, including in IPAS accommodation, within the Ukrainian beneficiary of temporary protection (BOTP) accommodation system, and using government department buildings. As of 24 January, there were 2,500 vacancies in the Ukrainian BOTP accommodation system. It is unacceptable that applicants for international protection should be forced to sleep rough while accommodation already paid for by the State lay vacant. The current policy of allowing suppliers to refuse to accommodate people based on nationality must be urgently addressed.

The Irish Refugee Council has assisted over 200 people seeking protection who are either sleeping rough or at risk of street homelessness, since 4 December. The organisation conducts outreach to homeless organisations to meet people and provide information, advice, and advocacy. At outreach session this week, an Irish Refugee Council caseworker met several people seeking protection who are sleeping rough, including two applicants who have been street homeless since the beginning of the crisis, almost 12 weeks ago. The caseworker said:

“People are exhausted, and their mental health is deteriorating with each night on the street. Three men had not eaten since the previous morning- they had no money for food and were unaware of homeless day services. One person spoke of the unsanitary conditions of life on the street and the risk of infection. Several people showed skin conditions which have developed in the past few weeks. One man with a physical disability spoke of severe pain and swelling. Despite his disability, he was not deemed vulnerable enough to be immediately provided with accommodation.”

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council stated:

“This situation cannot be normalised. 1,010 people without accommodation is of deepest concern to us. Government response is completely inadequate and, as confirmed by High Court, there is a mandatory obligation to provide international protection applicants with basic needs including accommodation.  We understand the difficult environment the Department of Children is working in to secure accommodation, but we are very concerned that accommodation capacity that does exist is not being used. It is hard not to conclude that this policy is an attempt to deter people from seeking international protection and that this situation is by choice and not inevitable. The passing of this milestone should give concern to all and spark action from all relevant government departments.”


Notes to the editor

  • The December 2023 Briefing Paper is available here.
  • The Irish Refugee Council's June 2023 report that captures the impact of homelessness among international protection applicants, “Now I live on the road”, is available here.
  • The High Court's April 2023 judgment of Justice Meenan is here.
  • The High Court’s December 2023 judgement of Justice Ferriter is here. Justice Ferriter stated: “As the review of the relevant law contained in this judgment makes clear, as a matter of EU law (as transposed into Irish law) the State remains under a continuing, mandatory obligation to provide international protection applicants with basic needs including accommodation on an uninterrupted basis from the point at which qualifying persons apply for international protection.”
  • Applicants were represented by the Irish Refugee Council Independent Law Centre in both cases.
  • International Protection applicants have been told that they have no entitlement to Local Authority homeless accommodation
  • 2,500 vacancies in BOTP accommodation; see answer to parliamentary question of Michael McNamara TD, 25 January 2024 
  • IPAS figures are available here

For more information contact:

Wendy Muperi, Communications Officer, [email protected] 0858550434

Nick Henderson, CEO, [email protected] 0858585559