McGrath: Treating Ukrainians differently based on when they arrived is anomalous

It is “anomalous” to treat Ukrainians differently based on when they arrived in Ireland, the Finance Minister has said.

Michael McGrath said the changes introduced in 12 weeks’ time would affect 27,000 Ukrainians living in state-provided accommodation.

Ukrainian refugees who fled to Ireland between 2022 and early 2024 are to have their allowances cut from the job seekers’ rate of 232 euros to a lower rate in the next three months.

mcgrath: treating ukrainians differently based on when they arrived is anomalous

Michael McGrath said the latest changes applied to Ukrainians who arrived in Ireland before March and are living in State-provided accommodation (Brian Lawless/PA)

A reduced payment of 38.80 euros per week already was applied to Ukrainians who arrived after mid-March, following a Cabinet decision that was expected to reduce the number of arrivals in Ireland, while those who entered the country before that deadline remained on the higher amount.

On Tuesday, ministers agreed to cut the rate being offered again, this time for Ukrainians who arrived in Ireland before March and are living in State-provided accommodation.

The changes will not affect Ukrainians who arrived in Ireland before March and are living in pledged accommodation and the private rental sector.

Mr McGrath told RTE’s Morning Ireland programme on Wednesday that it was an “inconsistency which we have to address”.

He said the policy would be implemented in “a reasonable and a fair manner”, and said that in exceptional circumstances “where people’s basic needs cannot be met by the level of support, that will be taken into account”.

The Fianna Fail minister said they would “continue to be provided with the most important and basic need of all” which is shelter, adding that child benefit would still be available.

“It’s important, whatever level of supports we have in place, are sustainable in every respect and it is anomalous to have a situation where people who came after a certain date are treated very differently to people who came prior to that date,” he said.

“I think if you look at what the state has done since February 2022, the state the country, our people, our communities have been welcoming, have been generous. I believe that that will continue over the period ahead.

“But we also have to ensure that our system is sustainable and that we are fair to everyone and that we don’t have an arbitrary cut-off point and depending on which side of that cut-off point a Ukrainian falls, the level of support is different in multiples. I think that would be unfair and we are addressing that.”

He added that the Government has “an extensive data bank” of information about state support for people from Ukraine.

“Almost 107,000 people have fled the war in Ukraine and have been granted temporary protection in Ireland,” he said.

“They’re not all still here. We estimate that approximately 86,000 of the 107,000 who came here from Ukraine remain in the state and over 66,000 are in state-supported accommodation. This change will impact on about 27,000 (people).”

He said there are an estimated 19,000 Ukrainians working in Ireland.

mcgrath: treating ukrainians differently based on when they arrived is anomalous

The Irish response to the war in Ukraine has been described as ‘exemplary’ (Brian Lawless/PA)

Since the last cut to supports being offered to Ukrainians was implemented in March, Mr McGrath said there had been a “significant” reduction in the number of arrivals.

“The daily inflow now is between 20 and 30 at this point. It was many multiples of that earlier in the war. We will see what the impact is in terms of people deciding to leave, many will want to leave I think in time anyway, others won’t.”

He described the Irish state and the Irish people’s response to the war in Ukraine as “exemplary”.

“Ireland has been to the fore at an international level in supporting Ukrainians, and we have taken a significant proportion of those who have fled Ukraine relative to our geography and relative to our population.

“So any objective analysis of Ireland’s response to the war in Ukraine I think will show generosity.”

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