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€627m spent on private emergency accommodation in 2023

Private emergency accommodation costs well over twice as much as State-run housing, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

The Committee on Public Accounts heard that private accommodation for both refugees and asylum seekers costs €76 per night per person, while State-run facilities cost on average €30.

Kevin McCarthy, Secretary General at the Department of Integration, revealed that in 2023 the State paid €627 million to private operators to accommodate asylum seekers.

He told Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster that State-run accommodation for asylum seekers last year cost €13.7m.

“The State-run accounts for a very small proportion of our overall accommodation portfolio,” Mr McCarthy said. “It’s about 4%.”

“There’s certainly a huge value-for-money case for State-owned over time,” he said, noting that the Government is moving away from its reliance on private providers.

To the end of March this year, a total of €219m has been spent on accommodation for asylum seekers, he said.

“Procuring enough bed space to keep pace with incoming arrivals remains extremely challenging,” Mr McCarthy said. “This is particularly so in the case of accommodation for single males.”

Applications for asylum are managed through International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS), whereas those fleeing the war in Ukraine are automatically granted refugee status.

To house Ukranian refugees, last year commercial providers were paid €1.112bn, Mr McCarthy said.

Fire safety for migrants ‘red line issue’, ctte hears

The committee also heard that fire safety in emergency accommodation for migrants is a “red line issue”.

“We won’t contract – or we will terminate contracts – where we’re not satisfied in terms for fire certification,” Mr McCarthy said.

The Department liaises “quite closely” with local authorities which “are very active” on this front, he added.

To date, Mr McCarthy revealed, 33 contracts for services to Ukrainian refugees have been terminated over compliance concerns.

“Termination is very much a last resort,” as the Department prefers to rectify matters when possible, he said.

In 2022, there were 152 inspections of IPAS facilities, the committee heard. Last year this fell by almost a third to 105.

Mr McCarthy said that there is “quite a bit of interaction” between the Department and the facilities, including visits from IPAS teams.

While “issues are identified and hopefully addressed” during these visits, he acknowledged to that this is not the same as inspections.

“Just over 5,700” of those who have been granted asylum in the Republic are still being provided with accommodation, Assistant Secretary General David Delaney revealed.

“In the region of 100 or less” of those who have been refused asylum are currently being given accommodation, he added.

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