The Irish government is set to drastically reduce welfare payments to newly arrived Ukrainians, the Irish Times reported on Monday, citing government sources. The move is designed to signal that the EU country has reached the limit of people it can accept from the country, the newspaper explained.
The proposal from Dublin’s Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman includes reducing welfare payments for Ukrainians from €220 ($236) per week to just €38.50 ($41) – the same weekly sum currently being offered to asylum seekers of other nationalities.
Senior government officials are “frank” that the move is intended to dissuade future refugee arrivals from Ukraine, the Irish Times reported.
The move was set to be signed off on by senior government figures on Monday evening before being discussed by the full cabinet on Tuesday. The Irish Times also reported that government sources said the plans are likely to be agreed.
However, the newspaper noted that its sources emphasized that welfare reduction would only apply to new arrivals and not to the approximately 100,000 Ukrainian refugees already in Ireland. Other measures expected to be approved include limiting state-approved accommodation for future refugees arriving from Ukraine to 90 days before they must find housing of their own.
In response to the proposals, the Irish Refugee Council said that the government plans are putting “short-term deterrence over long-term planning,” adding that refugees would find it “difficult if not impossible” to find accommodation once the 90-day period had expired. Once an EU economic poster child, the Irish economy is recovering from austerity and experiencing the worst housing crisis in the bloc.
If, as expected, the legislation changes are passed they would not take effect until next year.
Speaking to national broadcaster RTE on Sunday James Browne, Minister of State with the coalition Fianna Fail party, said that Ireland must “move from an emergency situation” towards a more “medium-term approach” regarding the influx of refugees to the state.
Browne said: “What we did was, in an emergency situation, put those emergency supports in for Ukrainians that were coming to Ireland,” adding that there has been a “significant increase in secondary movements” of people to Ireland who had already been based elsewhere in the European Union.
The issue of secondary movements of refugees into Ireland has also been noted by Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who said in October that Ireland’s “indefinite” support for refugees is not matched by “a lot of European countries.” Varadkar added that it “makes sense” for Ireland’s refugee welfare system to match others in place in the EU.
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