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UN asked to recommend end to asylum-seeker homelessness

The United Nations Refugee Agency will ask a UN committee to recommend that the Irish Government ends homelessness among asylum seekers.

According to the latest figures published by the Department of Integration, 878 recently arrived international protection (IP) applicants have not been offered any State-provided shelter.

In a written submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will ask it to make a series of recommendations to the Irish Government, including that it “immediately” accommodate all IP applicants upon arrival “to ensure they are not left in a situation of homelessness or destitution”.

The UNHCR will appear before the UN Committee tomorrow morning.

On 4 December, the Government ceased offering accommodation to all eligible new arrivals amid a nationwide shortage.

In its submission, the UNHCR will tell the Commission that while it “welcomes the fact that women, children and those with particular vulnerabilities are prioritised for accommodation”, it is “deeply concerned that single men are left without accommodation”.

“Prioritisation of the most vulnerable applicants cannot justify the denial of basic human rights, such as adequate shelter, to other applicants,” it added.

‘Emerhency situation’ – UNHCR

In a statement published ahead of the committee hearing, the UNHCR said that while it “acknowledges that the Government is facing significant challenges securing suitable accommodation for new arrivals, it has a moral and legal obligation to meet the basic needs of people who come to Ireland seeking safety”.

“This is an emergency situation which requires the Government to take extraordinary measures to ensure it can meet these basic humanitarian needs,” the UNHCR statement said.

It is also calling on the commission to recommend “eliminating reliance on tented accommodation for IP applicants”.

According to the latest report published by the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) on Sunday, there are currently 489 adult asylum seekers living in tented accommodation on three separate sites.

The UNHCR has said that it has “viewed the damp and cold conditions that some applicants are experiencing in tents, with limited heating, storage space, or privacy, and small, uncomfortable camp-beds” and that such accommodation “should only be used in the most exceptional cases” and “only as a short-term and temporary measure”.

It is also calling for an end to the “reliance on emergency accommodation for IP applicants and for unaccompanied children” and for “the national standards for accommodation” to apply to all State-provided accommodation for IP applicants.

The UNHCR is concerned that “the majority of (IP) applicants, more than 17,000, are accommodated in emergency centres across Ireland” and “these centres are not subject to independent inspections”.

The UN Committee is considering Ireland’s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and this is the State’s fourth periodic review under the Treaty.

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