I can confirm to the Deputy that all applicants for international protection who are residents of accommodation centres are there voluntarily. The offer of accommodation and related services to applicants is just that - an offer. There is no obligation on any applicant to accept that offer and there is no restriction on their freedom of movement throughout the State. Some applicants choose to stay with friends or family who are already living in the State or to source and provide for their own private accommodation if they have independent means.
Applicants who have been granted a labour market access permission and are employed or in self-employment now have the economic independence to allow them to make further choices regarding their accommodation situation. To date, the Minister for Justice and Equality has granted over 3,100 labour market access permissions.
International protection applicants have a temporary permission to remain in the State while their application is being examined and are therefore ineligible for social housing supports like HAP.
There are, however, approximately 850 people with an international protection status or a permission to remain who continue to reside in our accommodation centres. These people are no longer applicants and are no longer in the international protection process. They have the same right to housing assistance and supports as Irish nationals and EEA citizens. The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department does not record how many of these people have applied for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). People with status or permission to remain seeking accommodation in the wider community can choose to apply for HAP, or they may wish to use other means to pay for their accommodation.
My Department has engaged DePaul Ireland, the Jesuit Refugee Service and the Peter McVerry Trust to provide assistance to them to find accommodation. Information supplied to us by these organisations indicates that most people who find accommodation are availing of the HAP. In addition, my Department is working with other Government Departments, local authorities and the City and County Managers’ Association to help these people to transition to longer-term accommodation in the community.