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Monday 16 September 2019

Immigration officers sent to homeless agency offices

Concern at how non-EU nationals can become trapped in 'eternal' emergency housing cycle

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Immigration officers are to be stationed in the offices of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive due to the number of non-EU nationals presenting as homeless.

The move follows growing concern over non-EU nationals becoming trapped in emergency accommodation, as they are not legally entitled to go on the housing list.

Cabinet signed off last Tuesday on the decision to have officers from the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration service (INIS) based in the homeless agency's offices.

A Department of Housing spokesperson said immigration officials were best placed to determine the rights of those presenting as homeless so that correct supports could be provided to them.

"The aim is to make the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) into a one-stop shop and enable them to help people - rather than have them in an eternal circular of night-to-night beds," he added.

A DRHE report published last year found 21pc (204) of families who presented as homeless in 2017 were non-EU nationals. In 2016, 23pc (201) of families presenting as homeless were non-EU nationals.

The report said: "What is noteworthy is the disproportionate representation of non-Irish national families when compared with individuals in the general population.

"The 2016 Census reported that just under 12pc of the general population were non-Irish nationals," it added.

A report by the Government's inter-agency task force on homelessness last year also raised concerns about those presenting as homeless "who do not have the right to reside in Ireland or do not meet the habitual residency requirements to apply for social housing supports".

"In many cases, individuals without an entitlement to housing supports can spend significant time in emergency accommodation with no option to move on," it said.

The report recommended the introduction of "communications protocols" between the Department of Housing and Department of Justice on homelessness cases involving individuals or families who may not have an automatic right to housing.

"As part of the implementation of these recommendations, the Department of Justice and Equality will locate a staff member in the DRHE on a pilot basis to assist with evaluating the status of households presenting to homeless services," a Department of Housing spokesperson said.

"It should be noted that many non-Irish nationals presenting to homeless services will be entitled to housing supports and improved communications will reduce the time frequently involved in clarifying the entitlement of these households to housing supports," he added.

Last week, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said Brexit would not lead to a large influx of asylum seekers. However, Mr Flanagan said the Department has examined the possibility of more people seeking asylum in Ireland once Britain leaves the EU.

New figures show how applications for those seeking asylum in Ireland have grown steadily since the UK's June 2016 Brexit vote. Applications jumped 30pc to 2,926 between 2016 and 2017. This figure increased 25pc to 3,673 last year.

However, the most recent available nationality breakdown of homeless was published by the CSO in 2017, relating to data from the 2016 census. The figures showed that 84.6pc of homeless people who lived in Dublin were Irish with 15.4pc non-Irish. For the rest of Ireland, 88.5pc of homeless people were Irish, while 11.5pc were non-Irish.

Polish and UK nationals were the largest non-Irish groups, although UK nationals outnumbered the Polish among the homeless. There were 247 African nationals homeless, 91 of whom were Nigerian nationals, representing the largest group within this cohort.

The official homelessness figure of 9,987 was a rise of 234 people compared with the last month of 2018.

Sunday Independent

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