Ireland’s Department of Housing has reported that over 13,000 people were recorded homeless in November last year which creates concerns for aspiring migrants about living conditions in the country.
Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy at Focus Ireland, a charity challenging homelessness said that there has been an 80% increase in the number of families who were long-term homeless, almost twice the number for more than a year.
Dublin, known as one of the most expensive places to live in Ireland, has the highest number of homeless adults at 6,790, over 4,000 of whom are single. Aside from beneficiaries of emergency accommodation, the rough sleeper count for winter 2023 showed 118 people sleeping on the streets in Dublin, a 30% increase from the previous year.
Trouble for asylum seekers
International Protection Applicants (IPAs) are on the sharp edge of the housing crisis blade as latest figures show more than 450 recently arrived IPAs could not receive state-provided accommodation, most of whom relocated from African countries.
Refugees resulted in sleeping on the streets in freezing weather with no protection or care.
Louisa Santoro CEO Mendicity Institution, a charity in Ireland stated that IPAs make up 60% of their intakes since December.
“We’ve seen people who are arriving that have no accommodation, have nowhere to stay, and are sleeping outside”
In December, Ireland received 457 asylum seekers.
Nick Henderson CEO Irish Refugee Council expressed concern over government efforts to address the matter and slash the numbers.
“It’s an extremely concerning situation and we don’t believe the government have an adequate plan, if at all any plan to respond to this situation, and based on the current response, the numbers will go up, and we’ll be very concerned that someone may be at risk of harm.”
Permits, visas and dependants
The government of Ireland had recently started issuing employment permits to individuals with critical skills who require permission to work in the country including citizens of Nigeria and other countries outside the European Economic Area including the EU, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, the UK, or Switzerland.
The Critical Skills Employment Permit is for skilled workers who are qualified in disciplines that are experiencing a deficit of qualifications, experience and skills required for the proper functioning of the Irish economy.
Applicants living outside of Ireland need a visa and to present their employment permit at immigration upon entry. They must register with their local registration office and pay €300 for an Irish Residence Permit. Those already living in Ireland must apply for a change of registration permission at their local office.
The permit also allows holders to bring families over to live or work. It offers opportunities for partners of skilled workers to work in the country without a permit through the Stamp 1G IRP, but others can apply for a dependent/spouse/partner employment permit.
Increasing property prices have been a major driver of the country’s housing problem, said Gregg Colburn, University of Washington associate professor of real estate.
Prices rose in the second half of last year after interest rate hikes restricted price growth in the first half of the year, according to the latest quarterly house price report from MyHome.ie in association with Bank of Ireland.
The report found that annual asking price inflation was 4.1% nationwide, 4% in Dublin and 3.9% in the market outside of Dublin. The typical asking price for a house nationally was €325,000 in the last quarter. In Dublin, it was €415,000 and elsewhere around the country, it was €280,000.
Houses are now selling for 4% above their asking prices, but at the start of last year, just 1% of residential properties were selling for over their asking price.
Conall MacCoille, Bank of Ireland economist who wrote the property report, predicts another rise in house prices over the year.
Revolts and riots
High immigration rates coupled with the hike in accommodation and property costs triggered revolt from Irish nationals with various incidents of violent demonstrations reported countrywide.
Small anti-immigrant protests have grown in the last year with Ireland has seen a rise in riots. Recently, protesters marched in Dublin, questioning Ireland’s welcome for migrants and refugees.
The protesters chanted slogans such as “Ireland is full,” “Ireland for the Irish,” and “Irish lives matter,” which have quickly become hashtag trends on social media. Besides the homelessness crisis, protests are fueled by the concerns of foreigners receiving preferential treatment from the Irish government.
In November last year, far-right groups rioted in Dublin after a knife attack at a school that left five people injured, including three children. Police say rioters were driven by misinformation about the knife attack, which was blamed on an immigrant.
In response to this crisis, Darragh O’Brien Ireland’s Minister for Housing assured that his department is “Working flat out to meet this challenge and liaising closely with the local authorities and the homelessness NGOs to support households to exit homelessness to a tenancy.”
According to him, “This work is having an impact, and we are seeing significant numbers of households being prevented from entering emergency accommodation in the first instance.”
The minister said that the tenant-in-situ scheme– which allows local authorities to purchase homes where a tenant, in receipt of Housing Assistance Payments or the Rental Accommodation Scheme, has been issued with a notice of termination –is playing an important part in preventing homelessness.
Eoin Ó Broin Sinn Féin housing spokesperson however expressed discontent stating that the rising levels of homelessness is further evidence that the government’s housing plan is failing.
“Since the current Government was formed, homelessness and child homelessness has increased by a shocking 55%,” he said.
Ivana Bacik Labour Party leader described the spiking numbers as “intolerable”.
She said, “The Government must turn the tide on this national scandal. It is simply not good enough to repeat the line that ‘we have turned a corner on housing’.