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Migrants Facing exploitation, homelessness and hopelessness when it comes to housing

The Chief Executive of the Limerick-based national refugee and migrant support organisation Doras has said a new ERSI report highlights the dire housing situation faced by people from migrant backgrounds. His comments come in the wake of a report by the Economic and Social Research Institute which reveals 2016 census data showing that migrants face a much higher risk of overcrowding and homelessness.

“We see many migrants that live in overcrowded and poor accommodation or find themselves at greater risk of homelessness as a result of eviction, limited support, and lack of knowledge of their rights,” says Doras CEO John Lannon.

“We have seen discrimination against people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), and further discrimination on the basis of the identity, or often just the name, of the individual trying to rent a property. This makes it even more difficult for migrants to secure tenancies”

ESRI figures show that over half (56 per cent) of all migrants were living in private rented housing in 2016, compared to 13 per cent of Irish-born. 75 per cent of Polish migrants – one of the largest migrant groups in Ireland – lived in private rented accommodation. Almost 20 per cent of migrants in Ireland lived in overcrowded accommodation, compared to 8% of Irish born individuals. Overcrowding rates were particularly high among some non-EEA migrants, including migrants from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) (37 per cent), Sub-Saharan and Other Africa  (39 per cent), South Asia (41 per cent) and East Asia (37 per cent). When it comes to homelessness, census data shows that non-Irish nationals were overrepresented among homeless persons in Ireland. Non-Irish nationals comprised 11 per cent of the total population, yet non-Irish nationals made up 25 per cent of persons in homelessness.

John Lannon says the findings of the report back up what he and his colleagues are witnessing at Doras on a daily basis.

“There is no doubt that housing is an important element of successful integration. There are families in Limerick who arrived through family reunification processes that are living in mouldy, single-room apartments, or shared accommodation. Many aren’t aware of their rights and end up being exploited. Often they feel they don’t have an option but to tolerate sub-standard and sometimes unsafe living conditions, or being forced out of where they are living. As a case in point, many of the people facing eviction from the Shannon Arms apartments on Henry Street in Limerick right now are migrants.

“Safe and secure housing is a basic need if people are to have decent lives. Housing issues affect everything, including child development, relationships, and the ability to secure employment, education and childcare. This has a hugely negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of everyone involved”.

The lead author of the ESRI report, Dr Frances McGinnity, says the findings “demonstrate that we need to consider housing as an important part of integration policy”.

Doras ran an information session on housing and tenancy rights last year that proved very popular. The organisation are planning to do more in this area and is appealing to state bodies and other groups to help address the issues.

“There are thousands of people who have been granted status to remain in Ireland but are unable to move out of Direct Provision centres because of the lack of available accommodation. These centres have become a form of emergency accommodation for people who want to move on with their lives. The transition from living in Direct Provision to independent accommodation can be a difficult process at the best of times. But when people have to spend months, possibly years looking for somewhere to live it is even more distressing and can lead to hopelessness. We now have thousands of Ukrainian refugees arriving who will need support around housing. All of this is of course part of the wider housing crisis affecting our country and points to the urgency of finding radical solutions that ensure decent, secure and affordable housing is an option for all”.