In the course of discussing the possible factors which may be encouraging increasing numbers of Ukrainians arriving in Ireland, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has several times recently referred to what he has described as “secondary movements” of people claiming to be fleeing the war in Ukraine.
These are persons who have already been granted protection in other EU states, and indeed further abroad.
That has arisen in the context of what have been recognised as obvious “pull factors” including the far higher level of social welfare payments and other provisions that are made available to people claiming Temporary Protection here on that basis.
Official statistics indicated that the Irish state had seen an increase of over 70% in the numbers of Ukrainians arriving here in 2023 to the end of September – a rate that was ten times that of the overall EU average of just over 7%.
It appears that one of the factors in all of this is the Accommodation Recognition Payment Scheme which is an €800 per month tax free payment available to landlords, or private citizens, who provide accommodation to a person who is a beneficiary of Temporary Protection for at least 6 months.
Compounding all of that is the fact that the payment is acting as an enticement to people to rent to Ukrainians in Temporary Protection rather than to others who are seeking rental accommodation – because tax is usually payable on other rental income, as an example of one factor.
How that has impacted upon the rental market or even in increasing the numbers of people officially registered as homeless is impossible to quantify.
Gript has seen a number of messages from persons claiming to be Ukrainian refugees who are living in “secondary countries” including Canada, who have placed requests on social media in search of accommodation in Ireland, and specifically refer to the availability to landlords of the tax-free payment.
One of those persons already here who has advertised the benefits of the ARP claims to be “a Ukrainian officer of the merchant marine.” He is 50 years old and also apparently wishes to become an Irish citizen. Ukraine had actually banned all males aged between 18 and 60 from leaving the country, though this has not prevented thousands of men in that age cohort from arriving in Ireland.
I am also pretty certain that the merchant marine is considered to be part of the armed forces of a country that is at war, and indeed there have been many reports of Russian attacks on Ukrainian merchant shipping designed of course to cut off vital supplies. I am not certain how they might look upon one the officers of this vital service fleeing the country when surely his services might be required?
It is difficult to quantify the impact of the payment on the rental market, but we do know that the number of persons officially registered as homeless across all of the local authority areas has risen greatly since March 2022 when the first Ukrainian refugees arrived here.
That figure increased at an even faster rate following the doubling of the ARP with effect from December 1, 2022.
The official figure for homelessness across the state in the week ending September was 8,923. The figure for February 2022, the month before the first arrivals of Ukrainian refugees, was 6,825. The number of homeless grew by another 900 in the period following the increase of the ARP from €400 per month to €800 per month.
The level of homelessness has risen by more than 30% since February 2022. That was more than twice the rate for the previous 12 months. The influx of Ukrainians and the ARP payment as well as the arrival of large numbers of people claiming asylum from other countries is not the sole factor, but it certainly may be a contributory one – as is indeed indicated by the fact that 43% of those officially homeless are non-Irish citizens.
Anecdotally there are also claims that the diversion of accommodation to Ukrainian refugees has contributed both to the shortage and the increased rental costs for students who returned to third level education in Autumn and who often find themselves in direct competition with Ukrainian and other refugees for accommodation.
This connection that bizarrely appears to be lost on some of the spokespersons for the student representation bodies.