Coalition leaders sign off on proposed changes to Ukrainian supports

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking to the media in Leitrim (Niall Carson/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking to the media in Leitrim (Niall Carson/PA)

The coalition leaders have signed off on plans to alter support for Ukrainian refugees in receipt of State accommodation.

Ukrainian refugees can currently receive 220 euro in jobseekers’ allowance while looking for work.

The proposals, which goes for formal Cabinet approval on Tuesday, would see the weekly 220 euro payment drop to 38.80 euro for those housed by the State.

Applicants could see the payment increase if they leave State-provided accommodation.

It is understood the proposals would also limit State accommodation for any new arrivals to 90 days.

The Government has said it is no longer possible to house all international protection applicants indefinitely.

Speaking to reporters in Leitrim earlier on Monday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was proud the country had welcomed approximately 100,000 people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

However, he added: “The basic principle that we’re going to apply is what we offer people fleeing Ukraine in Ireland should be similar to what’s offered in other parts of western Europe.

“In most cases in western Europe people are offered accommodation but not indefinitely. And if you are being provided with accommodation – food, board, lodging, heat, light – by the state, you don’t get the full social welfare payment.”

Mr Varadkar said the Cabinet also has to think of the “knock-on effects” of any change, given the housing shortage.

Asked if the decision to offer 220 euro per week was a mistake, Mr Varadkar said: “I really don’t think so. We managed to welcome about 100,000 people from Ukraine to Ireland and I’m proud of the country that we managed to do that.

“Irish people have to travel all over the world for all sorts of reasons and received a welcome in the countries that we went to, and I’m glad that we were able to do this, on this occasion, for the people of Ukraine.”

Mr Varadkar said it was not about the State being able to continue to afford the payment but rather about a “deficit” in accommodation.

He added: “We don’t want to be in a position whereby we’re saying to people we have nowhere for you to stay, but we are in a very difficult situation now and the priority will be to look after women and children and people who have particular vulnerabilities and particular needs.”

He said all applicants are “fully vetted”.

He added: “Contrary to some things I hear being said, of course, before anyone is granted leave to stay in Ireland they are fully vetted.

“Fingerprints are taken so we can cross-check them for having been in other countries, lots of things are done that maybe people don’t realise but, you know, everyone is a person and there’s a basic standard of human dignity that we try to apply in all cases.”

Mr Varadkar said people fleeing to Ireland are “suffering in a way we can almost not imagine” as he said other countries’ “tough talk” had not reduced refugee numbers.

He said: “Let’s not forget that, whether it’s people fleeing the war in Ukraine or people fleeing wars in other parts of the world, they don’t have any homes at all. Their homes are long gone, their schools are gone.

“They are going to keep coming here and we need to be realistic and honest with people about that.

“I’ve seen governments all around the world talk tough about migration – leave the European Union, build walls and fences, put children in cages, separate them from their families, it hasn’t stopped the numbers coming.

“We live in a very dangerous world where hundreds of millions of people are on the move and we’re very lucky and very privileged to live in a country like Ireland where people are safe and most people have homes, schools, hospitals and services to go to. We should never forget that.”