Press release: ‘Now I live on the road’, new Irish Refugee Council report highlighting the impact of homelessness on people seeking protection

The report, titled Now I live on the road’, launched today highlights the impact of homelessness on protection applicants and the unsafe conditions people seeking protection have endured since January. Almost 1,400 people seeking protection in Ireland have been forced into homelessness for up to 10 weeks since the Government failed to accommodate them on arrival. The title of the report is from a message received by the Irish Refugee Council from a person experiencing homelessness.

This report describes the Irish Refugee Council’s experience of supporting homeless people, contains interviews with international protection applicants and testimonies from frontline service providers such as GPs and charity sector staff.

  • At the worst point of the crisis, 593 people seeking protection were experiencing homelessness.
  • 56 couples and seven single women have been forced to sleep rough.
  • Over 450 people seeking protection who have been forced to rough sleep have contacted the Irish Refugee Council for support.
  • Of those who contacted the Irish Refugee Council, 38% self-reported a physical or mental health concern.
  • The Irish Refugee Council has supported three pregnant women who experienced homelessness, and dozens of people with serious physical and mental health conditions.
  • The oldest person who presented at Irish Refugee Council as rough sleeping was 62 years old, and the youngest was 17.
  • Of deep concern to the Irish Refugee Council are the cases of four unaccompanied children who have been forced to rough sleep for as long as six weeks, after being assessed as ineligible for State childcare services. Of the four children, two have since been taken into Tusla care having been finally found to be children. The other two have received evidence of their age and are awaiting re-assessments while currently living in adult accommodation.

The report shows that vulnerabilities and underlying health issues of people seeking protection have not been identified effectively by State agencies. Physical and mental health concerns deteriorate rapidly with time spent on the street.

Interviews with people forced to sleep rough show that the weekly payment of €38.80, and eligibility for Additional Needs Payment, is insufficient to meet a person’s means while experiencing homelessness. People are facing destitution as basic services, such as public transport are unaffordable. A weekly €50 voucher will not alleviate destitution.

Interviews with frontline NGO staff highlight an overreliance on NGOs, many of whom felt unprepared and whose resources are already overstretched.

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said:

“The findings of this report show not only a loss of dignity, but destitution among those who have been forced into homelessness. We acknowledge the work being done by the Department of Children and civil servants, but this situation is a new low in the history of refugee protection in this country and represents a breakdown of Ireland’s protection and reception system.  We call on all of Government to fulfil its duties to provide reception conditions. Unless this occurs, for the foreseeable future, a single male protection applicant who arrives in Ireland is likely to face a period of homelessness. We are extremely concerned that safeguards have not been put in place to identify vulnerable people, including unaccompanied children, pregnant women, and people with serious mental and physical health concerns.”

The report says it is imperative that, at a minimum, homelessness among people seeking protection ceases and does not reoccur.  It calls for measures to be taken to alleviate destitution if people remain homeless and makes short, medium, and long term recommendations to address the accommodation crisis.

The report recommends:

  • An all-of-government response to the crisis and greater inter-departmental cooperation and communication.
  • A full social welfare allowance to alleviate destitution until reception conditions can be met.
  • Applicants to be given the option of pausing their protection application until they are provided with accommodation. 
  • The government to identify a point of contact whose priority is to ensure proactive communication with relevant NGOs, should crises of this nature reoccur.
  • All people seeking protection to be assessed for vulnerabilities, as required by law.

The report is further to the decision of the High Court in which Mr Justice Meenan stated that (in relation to two protection applicants):

“By reason of the failure of the Minister the Applicant has been forced to live and sleep rough, beg for food and has been deprived of basic hygiene conditions. In addition, the applicant has been exposed to personal attack and danger and also subjected to humiliation”.

“Directing persons such as the applicant to private charities to receive supports which the Minister is obliged to give cannot be seen as anything other than completely unacceptable” and that it “does not come remotely close to what is required by law”.

Notes for editors:  

  • Now I Live on the Road’ is available to download here.
  • The decision of the High Court is available here.

For further information or comments, contact:

Nick Henderson (CEO) 085 858 5559/ [email protected] 

Wendy Muperi (Communications Officer) 085 855 0434/ [email protected]

Download Report