Sunday 24 March 2019

Non-EU nationals set to be cut from homeless figures

Minister moves to remove hundreds from official statistics

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Doug O'Connor
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Doug O'Connor
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The war of words over homeless figures is expected to dramatically escalate as the Government moves to remove non-EU nationals and people in long-term healthcare facilities from official statistics.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has been told by his senior officials that hundreds of non-EU nationals, who may not be legally entitled to housing, are currently recorded as homeless.

The minister has also been informed that up to 2,000 people in long-term healthcare facilities could be incorrectly registered as homeless, too.

Mr Murphy is understood to be considering removing both groups from his monthly homelessness updates once he receives confirmation of the details from his officials.

The move would infuriate opposition politicians who last week accused Mr Murphy of "manipulating" figures when he removed 600 people from homeless statistics.

A senior Government source said there had been an increase in the number of non-EU nationals presenting themselves at Garda stations as homeless.

Gardai accommodate the families or individuals for a night before passing them on to the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) which houses them in hotels and B&Bs.

The source said these families were not always legally entitled to long-term housing because they are not from within the EU and have not been processed by immigration services.

However, because they are housed by the DRHE they are categorised as homeless in the official monthly statistics.

Another Department of Housing source said some foreign nationals were coming to Ireland because the country is viewed as a "soft touch".

"We have people coming off planes and at train stations who we then have to provide emergency accommodation for without them going through immigration. It's been going on for a while but it's been increasing recently," the source said.

Mr Murphy is due to meet Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan in the coming weeks to discuss the number of non-EU nationals in emergency accommodation.

Department of Housing officials believe their counterparts in the Department of Justice should be doing more to process people through immigration services.

"We won't tiptoe around this. If there are problems in the system and people are categorised as homeless when really they are illegal we will call it out or find a way to solve the problem," a source said.

Mr Murphy also plans to remove people in long-term health facilities who are being treated for addictions or mental health issues.

There are currently 9,681 people registered as homeless, including 3,646 children.

However, Mr Murphy said 600 people living in local authority-owned or leased housing stock had been wrongly categorised as homeless.

Sinn Fein housing spokesman Eoin O Broin accused the minister of "dishonestly" massaging and manipulating homeless figures.

Fianna Fail housing spokesman Darragh O'Brien also wrote to Mr Murphy last week objecting to a change in the publication of homeless figures from monthly to every three months.

Sunday Independent

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