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Call for hard-up refugees to be handed grants to help towards rent

Published 20/07/2016

Asylum seekers are being forced into debt, warns refugee council
Asylum seekers are being forced into debt, warns refugee council

Refugees should be given poverty-proof grants to set themselves up in a home once they get their papers, campaigners have said.

The Irish Refugee Council warned that asylum seekers are being abandoned when told they can leave state-run Direct Provision accommodation and its weekly payment of 19.10 euro.

Its research found refugees are forced into huge debt to pay for rent and basic household items and almost half of them wait another three months to secure a new place to live.

Blessing Moyo, a former asylum seeker who worked as a peer researcher on the project, said asylum seekers and refugees face routine discrimination which is compounded by the housing crisis.

"If you mention to the landlord that you're on rent supplement they want nothing to do with you, which to me is discrimination," she said.

"We all need houses for our family. It's not my fault that I am not working. I have been denied the right to work for seven years now. The government have to do something about this or it will get worse."

Some 837 people applied for refugee status in Ireland up to the end of May this year, compared to 3,276 over the course of last year.

At the end of May, more than 5,300 people , including at least 1,100 children, were living in Direct Provision, including one of the 35 accommodation centres spread across 17 counties and the reception centres.

Some 500 people who have been given papers to stay in Ireland cannot afford to move out of the state-run system.

Dr Muireann Ni Raghallaigh, one of the report authors, said the damage done by long stays in Direct Provision is now being seen.

"This system impedes integration and has in some cases created a legacy of dependency and difficulty in terms of transition," she said.

She added: "There is immense resilience within the refugee community. This resilience can be harnessed with the help of designated supports throughout the asylum process, at the point of transition from Direct Provision, but also beyond that, if necessary."

The Irish Refugee Council held interviews with 22 former asylum seekers, 12 of whom were out of Direct Provision and 10 who were trying to find new accommodation.

It repeated its call for an end to Direct Provision but said in the meantime refugees should get a resettlement grant large enough to pay a deposit to a landlord, one month's rent and the essentials for moving in, such as bedding and kitchen utensils.

Asylum seekers spend three years on a verage in the system and the council said it is a life of poverty and it leads to mental health problems and children's well-being suffers.

The Irish Refugee Council called for successful asylum seekers to get the same state support as refugees who come to Ireland under Government supported resettlement projects, including a grant and a specific point of contact for information and support.

It also said they should get immediate access to t he back-to-education allowance and get clear guidance on how to reunite their family.

The organisation called for Direct Provision to be modernised while a plan for housing asylum seekers is drawn up. It said they should have self-catering facilities, increased payments, quicker asylum processing, permission to study and to work, increased psycho-social supports and more support for cultural integration.

It also called for rent supplement payments to be made in a timely manner and any other welfare allowances to be made available as soon as people get their papers.

The Department of Justice later said the most up-to-date figures showed 4,250 people living in Direct Provision centres at the start of this week.

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