As mentioned above, it should be noted that the definition of “recipient” for the purposes of benefiting from entitlements under the Reception Conditions Regulations 2018 does not cover beneficiaries of international protection, or those on deportation orders.
The main source of accommodation is social (public) housing or private rental accommodation. Local authorities are the main providers of social housing but people need to be on housing lists which can take a considerable amount of time.
According to the Minister of State, David Stanton ‘Once some form of status is granted, residents cease to be ordinarily entitled to the accommodation supports provided through RIA. Notwithstanding this fact, RIA have always continued to provide such persons with continued accommodation until they secure their own private accommodation. RIA are particularly mindful of the reality of the housing situation in the State and the pressures on the Community Welfare Service in respect of Rent Supplement or the City and County Councils in respect of Housing Assistance Payments and Housing Lists. The Government is committed to ensuring that persons who are availing of State provided accommodation, including those who have come to Ireland under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, are supported in sourcing and securing private accommodation.’
Difficulties exist for beneficiaries on accessing housing once status is granted as there is currently a housing crisis in Ireland which impacts everyone. This means that beneficiaries have difficulty leaving Direct Provision and finding suitable housing. This is exacerbated by the accommodation crisis in Ireland, where waiting lists for social housing are long and rental costs exceed the amounts paid in rent supplements. Discrimination and racism is also reported in the rental market.
The situation for beneficiaries of international protection who are finding difficulty obtaining independent accommodation is exacerbated by the concurrent lack of capacity in Direct Provision centres. As of September 2020 there were 810 persons with some form of protection status residing in Direct Provision.
In September 2017, RIA (now IPAS) issued letters to cohorts of (predominantly single male) refugees living in Direct Provision who had received final decisions on their case (both those with positive decision on refugee status and subsidiary protection and those with a deportation order) but had not been able to source alternative accommodation, stating that RIA had ‘no role in the provision of accommodation to persons once a decision has been made on their application’ and asking them to vacate the centres within a month. This prompted backlash from a number of NGOs such as Nasc, who stated the letters represent “a catastrophic shift in policy, which will actively make those on deportation orders that have not been effected by the State at severe risk of homelessness and destitution.” In response, the Department of Justice cited reduced capacity of Direct Provision centres as an explanation for the letters and drew a distinction from those who were awaiting a decision on their international protection application and those who were on deportation orders stating that “[c]ontinuing to allocate limited accommodation to people who are legally obliged to remove themselves from the State would undermine our laws and adversely impact our capacity to assist those who are seeking refugee status. At current rate of demand, accommodation capacity in the Centres will run out for all applicants within a number of weeks unless remedial action is taken.”
Due to the ongoing housing crisis in Ireland, as well as already over-subscribed homelessness centres, emergency accommodation and support, there is a real risk that without transitional support, forcing people to leave Direct Provision could result in long term homelessness and/or destitution.
This issue is still ongoing at the time of writing and while IPAS have not issued any additional notices requesting that people vacate their Direct Provision centre, the Irish Refugee Council has encountered both categories of affected persons through its Direct Service provision who face difficulty accessing Direct Provision accommodation. They are advised to remain in their accommodation centre and are assisted by the Irish Refugee Council’s direct support services with providing written representations to IPAS and other relevant agencies.
The Department of Justice has a specific team who work in collaboration with DePaul Ireland, the Jesuit Refugee Service, the Peter McVerry Trust, officials in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and the City and County Managers Association to collectively support residents with status or permission to remain to access housing options. By the end of 2019, a total of 732 people transitioned out of accommodation centres, of which 500 did with the assistance of the services and support mentioned above.
In April 2019 the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government released a document titled: Social Housing and HAP Supports Available to Assist Households In Direct Provision Who Have Been Granted “Leave To Remain” And Are Eligible For Social Housing. The paper confirms that people leaving Direct Provision are entitled to ‘Homeless Housing Assistance Payment’ which gives additional supports such as access to a deposit, advance rent and a discretionary 20% addition to the existing HAP rent. The Department also released, in partnership with the City and County Managers Association and IPAS, a document titled ‘Information paper on supporting people with status/leave to remain’ which contained information on how people will receive assistance to leave Direct Provision.
In the experience of the Irish Refugee Council, the Covid-19 pandemic and associated restrictions resulted in significant obstacles to securing housing for beneficiaries of international protection. Restrictions on the operation of local authorities and administrative bodies have resulted in delays in the processing of social housing applicants and entry on to housing lists. This in turn impedes individuals’ ability to access Housing Assistant Payment (HAP) and ultimately, secure housing. Caseworkers have noted, however, that the pandemic has positively impacted the availability of housing for beneficiaries of international protection in that a decrease in demand for rental property has opened up the market significantly for HAP tenants.
 For further information see Irish Research Council in partnership with the Irish Refugee Council, Transition from Direct Provision to life in the community, June 2016, available at: https://bit.ly/2AlwPTX.
 The Journal, ‘“Ignored at viewings because they’re black or Asian”: Dozens of asylum seekers facing homelessness’, 24 February 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2H4SBwo; See also: Dublin InQuirer, ‘Some ex-asylum seekers say they’re stuck In Direct Provision because Dublin landlords won’t accept them’, 30 September 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3jW2JZX.
 Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, Reply to parliamentary question no. 582, 15 September 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/39EA5Yo.
 These documents are not currently available online.