Ireland to slash payments to Ukrainian refugees in state accommodation

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland will slash a weekly payment for all Ukrainian refugees using state accommodation to 38.80 euros ($41.96) from 220 euros from August in a bid to bring the system more in line with other European countries, the government said on Tuesday.

Almost half of the just over 100,000 Ukrainians who fled to Ireland since Russia's invasion in February 2022 are living in state-provided accommodation such as hotels and guesthouses, down from close to 60,000 six months ago.

The allowance has already been cut for Ukrainian refugees in state accommodation who arrived after mid-March this year to 38.80 euros.

The 18,750 Ukrainians living in accommodation pledged or provided by members of the public will still receive 220 euros a week. The Central Statistics Agency estimates that up to 23,000 of those who arrived from Ukraine may have since left.

The housing of refugees and rapidly rising numbers of asylum seekers has recently become a much bigger political issue in Ireland, a country of 5.3 million people which has been struggling for years to adequately boost a severe lack of housing supply.

A group supporting Ukrainian refugees criticised the cut in payments, saying it would mostly impact elderly people and mothers who are unable to seek work due to childcare needs. Ireland has one of the highest rates of Ukrainian refugees to its own population.

"The Irish people's response has been extraordinary generous, and to a point the Irish government's response was exceptional, but this flies in the face of that generosity," Tom McEnaney, founder of the Effective Aid Ukraine charity, told national broadcaster RTE.

"We are going from being generous to being mean and cold hearted, and I think it's completely at odds with how the Irish people in general feel about Ukrainians who have no choice but to flee the war."

($1 = 0.9247 euros)

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Leslie Adler)