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Ireland considering making further benefit cuts to Ukrainian refugees

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Ireland is considering making further cuts to support and benefits for Ukrainian refugees, as it struggles to house rising numbers of migrants arriving in the country.

Ministers will discuss immigration in Dublin on Thursday afternoon, a day after Rishi Sunak and Simon Harris, the Irish Prime Minister, clashed over claims that asylum seekers were crossing the border from Northern Ireland to escape the Rwanda plan.

Tensions over immigration are high in Ireland, a country of about 5.1 million people, which is struggling with a housing crisis and has welcomed more than 104,000 Ukrainian refugees since Putin’s illegal invasion.

More than 6,000 people applied for asylum in Ireland by April 12 this year alone. If that rate continues, Ireland would have a record number of more than 20,000 asylum claims by the end of 2024. The previous record was 13,000 in 2004.

Ireland at limit of support

Dublin has claimed that up to 90 per cent of the asylum seekers have crossed the border with the UK, but that has been disputed.

Last year, Ireland slashed its allowance for newly arrived Ukrainian refugees, said it was at the limit of the support it could offer migrants and began using tented accommodation to house asylum seekers.

It cut payments for newly arrived Ukrainians in state accommodation to £33.19 a week from £188.19 and put a 90-day limit on the time they can have government housing.

It also tightened support for migrants to make it more similar to the UK and other Western European countries, amid fears the more generous offer was acting as a pull factor.

‘Shanty town’ dismantled

The Irish Times reported that further cuts in support for Ukrainians would be among the issues discussed at the meeting on migration, after police dismantled a “shanty town” of tents housing migrants that had sprung up around the asylum claims office in Dublin city centre on Wednesday.

The plan to reduce support further could cause tensions between Ireland’s three-party coalition government of the centre-Right parties Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. The Greens have reservations about the need for further cuts as increasing numbers of Ukrainians are returning home from Ireland.

Mr Harris has announced plans to send 100 extra police to border areas and called on Mr Sunak to uphold a UK-Ireland migrant returns agreement signed in 2020.

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