Recognised refugees are struggling to leave government accommodation due to both mainstream and specific barriers, finds new ESRI report

New EMN Ireland/ ESRI research published today found that a large number of recognised refugees (called ‘beneficiaries of international protection’ in the report) are struggling to move out of government-provided accommodation into autonomous housing. Recognised refugees are people who have arrived in Ireland, applied for international protection/asylum, and received a positive decision on their application. Refugees are an increasingly large group who face significant challenges accessing housing. This has implications for individuals and for the capacity of government-provided accommodation for asylum applicants.

Mainstream barriers to refugees moving into autonomous housing include shortages in the supply of social and affordable housing and inadequacies in mainstream support services. Additional barriers faced by this group include the ad hoc nature of the dispersal system, language barriers and a lack of information, and discrimination. Good practices identified included the introduction of permanent, Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY)-funded integration teams in every local authority.

This research, which is co-funded by the European Union and the Irish Department of Justice, explores access to autonomous housing for refugees residing in government-provided accommodation, seeking to understand the relevant policy, governance and services impacting their housing outcomes, as well as challenges and good practices.


As of January 2024, almost 6,000 people with international protection status who could in principle move on to autonomous housing were living in government-provided (IPAS) accommodation. This was approximately 22% of the total residents, a significant increase from 2020, when around 14% of those in IPAS accommodation had this status. The large number of refugees in government-provided accommodation has major implications for the capacity to accommodate new applicants, over 1,800 of whom were awaiting an offer of accommodation as of May 2024.

Nevertheless, the research found that some refugees were able to move on, with approximately 2,000 people progressing from IPAS accommodation in 2023. However, the research also demonstrated that there was no mechanism to track the outcomes of this group once they left IPAS accommodation. Several stakeholders interviewed indicated that, in their experience, some may end up in vulnerable situations.

Barriers to accessing housing

A lack of supply of social housing and affordable private rental housing was the primary barrier identified. Other mainstream barriers included the inadequacy of mainstream support services such as:

  • HAP (with a lack of available properties and the need for top-up payments);
  • Overburdened services related to housing (including social housing, frontline support workers, homelessness services), which particularly disadvantages those with additional needs;
  • A lack of knowledge or clarity in local authorities about the rights and entitlements of refugees.

Several barriers identified for this group are related to the system for accommodating and integrating recognised refugees, such as the dispersal system, which does not consider long-term housing, employment or services in the area; the practice of transferring refugees to different accommodation after 1-2 years with status; and a lack of coordination and planning for reunified families. Other barriers identified for this group included language barriers and a lack of access to information and networks, discrimination by landlords, and psychological issues.

Providing support: challenges and good practices

Challenges for service providers for this group included:  

  • A lack of resources and high staff turnover for NGOs and local authorities;
  • Inconsistency between the approaches of different local authorities and/or lack of clarity among local authorities about the entitlements of this group.

Good practices reported included:

  • The introduction of permanent, DCEDIY-funded integration teams in every local authority,
  • Multistakeholder/multiagency approaches and coordination mechanisms such as the interdepartmental working group that was set up for beneficiaries of temporary protection.
  • Community integration forums which were set up to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and have been repurposed to support the integration of beneficiaries of temporary protection from Ukraine and international protection applicants.

Cooperation between different actors working on the transition to autonomous housing for recognised refugees was identified. Some forms of cooperation were facilitated by formal governance structures while others were ad hoc and relationship-based. Formal cooperation protocols were identified as a good practice.

Keire Murphy, co-author of the report said "This research shows that Ireland is currently facing a double challenge: a broader, mainstream challenge in relation to housing in general, and a more specific challenge around developing capacity to manage inward migration. This report shows that while targeted supports like housing caseworkers are important to overcome the specific barriers faced by this group, the mainstream challenges make it difficult to improve housing outcomes."

Amy Stapleton, co-author of the report stated: “Good practices identified show potential avenues for improving outcomes. These practices included multiagency approaches to provide wraparound supports to people leaving government-provided accommodation, supporting access to employment, education, English language learning, all of which are crucial for long-term integration. While there are multiple good practices that could be applied in the short-term, long-term planning is crucial to address the sources of challenges and barriers in this area.”