Earlier this year, Minister Roderic O’Gorman made a grand announcement – an announcement so exciting that, as my colleague Ben has extensively reported – he made sure to advertise that announcement in languages ranging from Albanian to Somali, lest anybody overseas not see it. Come to Ireland, he said, and we will give you your own home, with own-door accommodation within just a few weeks.
Perhaps entirely coincidentally – who knows – in the months since that announcement was made, there has been an enormous influx of so called “international protection applicants” – what we used to call “asylum seekers” into Ireland, including from many of those countries in whose language the Minister signalled our generosity.
And alas, it seems that many migrants, apparently lacking any experience of what an Irish Government promise means, took the Minister at his word. The difficulty – which, clearly, nobody in Government could have foreseen – is that there simply are not enough houses to keep the promise that was made.
And so, as is tradition when the Irish Government has a problem, the beacons of Minis Tirith are lit: Roderic calls for aid.
And the NGOs will answer:
Some eight million euros of your money is to be spent paying the winning tenderer, or tenderers, to find housing for migrants.
According to the tender document, the ultimate objective is to find housing for 18,000 migrants, across all 26 counties. The document says:
Persons with Status have the same housing entitlements as Irish nationals. However, they can experience barriers in accessing housing as they have not have knowledge of available accommodation in the areas where they wish to live; they may not have sufficient English language competency to complete applications for Housing Assistance Payment or may not have transport to get to viewings of available accommodation. This tender seeks parties to assist Person(s) with Status to find their own housing solutions outside of IPAS accommodation so that they may live independently in the community. This will include finding suitable accommodation, supporting Person(s) with Status to complete applications for Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and supporting them to move into this accommodation.
The €8m, clearly, is not intended to build or acquire 18,000 new or empty homes. That money, presumably, will come from elsewhere. This funding, instead, is for what we might call liaison services – the winning bidder will be expected to build relationships with migrants, identify homes that they might like to live in, and then lobby the Government to acquire those homes on behalf of the migrant or migrants concerned.
One might very well wonder whether, for example, these services should be restricted only to those persons who have been granted asylum (or “international protection” as we now call it, to make it sound nicer) but that is not the case. The state is in the business of finding people homes here long before their asylum applications have been fully processed and adjudicated.
Again, one might wonder about the consequences, or intended consequences, of that policy on the asylum system itself: A person who has secured permanent accommodation here, and “built a life for themselves”, as the NGO sector says, is less likely to be deported, even when their asylum claim fails. Indeed, they might well fit the category for an asylum amnesty, such as the one introduced by Government this year.
Is this a good, or appropriate use, of taxpayer money? That’s a question for you, dear reader, to answer. But I suspect you probably won’t read about this particular use of taxpayer money anywhere else.