Ireland pays Ukrainian refugees 30 times more each than Belgium does, according to a government report published recently.
The news has provoked internet attacks on Ukrainians in Ireland and also led the government to consider reducing or limiting its assistance to Ukrainians.
Independent TD Marc MacSharry raised the report in Ireland’s Dáil, calling such assistance “reckless in the extreme in the face of the worst accommodation crisis since the 1840s”.
MacSharry asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar if his Irish Government would “adjust [its] policy to provide an element of balance with other countries”.
Varadkar appeared to open the door for a possible reduction, replying: “We try to align what is done in Ireland with what is done in other European countries.”
Ireland’s cabinet subcommittee on Ukraine is due to meet later in October and, regarding Ukrainians there, will consider either reducing welfare benefits or state accommodation or limiting them to a specific length of time. It had discussed the matter previously in July but did not reach a decision.
One Ukrainian currently in Ireland Olga Smirnenko said, after she read similar comments online, “I caught myself thinking that my house was destroyed, my husband was fighting and it was unknown whether I would see him alive, and for some reason I felt sorry for the Irish. How they suffer from our invasion.”
Victoria Moroz, a translator from Donetsk, said since she had continued working when she moved to Ireland in April 2022 and she had received no government assistance whatsoever.
She set up as a sole trader in Ireland after six months as soon as she became tax resident.
“I can say only that no tax relief in the first year is unfair,” she added, noting: “I’m still paying Ukrainian and Irish taxes.”
Ireland currently offers Ukrainian refugees €220 a week in state cash, compared with €7.90 from Belgium.
The €220 in Irish aid does not include a further €800 a month the country gives to homeowners who house Ukrainians.
Ireland’s assistance consists of Jobseekers’ Allowance offered to Ukrainians not in work. (Pensioners received €254, and pensioners over 80 years old, €264.)
Belgium provides €7.90 a week to Ukrainians applying for international protection, along with food and shelter in reception centres.
The report by Ireland’s Oireachtas (parliamentary) Library and Research Service, commissioned by MacSharry, drew on data from the European Centre for Parliamentary Research and Development (ECPRD).
The ECPRD sent each European Union country a questionnaire asking how much assistance they gave Ukrainians and compiled the responses.
Another Ukrainian in Ireland Sveta Magdych said her “only very, very big problem,” was when the Irish Government settled members of her family in different parts of the country.
Her family is now divided between Dublin, Galway, South Cork and Letterkenny, she said.
“You can’t even imagine what a person feels who goes to the second end of the world and can’t live with their loved ones, because it is the policy of the state,” she said.
With a cost-of-living crisis compounding a preexisting housing shortage, Ireland’s Ukrainians have increasingly found themselves targets of online criticism.
Brussels Signal posted messages in four Facebook groups set up to assist Ukrainian refugees, to ask them about their experiences in Ireland.
As well as drawing responses from Ukrainians, replies also included such complaints as “place to live, medical card, free everything and they still moan” and “better ask Irish homeless in Dublin”.
The flight of war refugees from Ukraine represents the first time the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive (TPD) has been used, although it was introduced into EU law in 2001, said Scherezade Maestre, an immigration lawyer and previously a policy officer with the European Commission.
The TPD provides a procedure for EU Member States to deal with a “mass influx” of people needing international protection.
Resettlement of Ukrainians under TPD was a “much more straightforward process than the standard refugee route,” Maestre said.
In some EU countries, Ukrainians are able to start working without requiring “anything at all apart from the TPD”, while in others “a simple notification” sufficed.
Maestre said the most pressing issue regarding the TDP procedure was how it applied to third-country nationals living in Ukraine.
Many of those “faced rejections or further scrutiny” when they applied for TPD status in the EU.
If they had come to Ukraine as refugees, they “couldn’t go back to their home country from where they fled”.
Ireland had received 73,000 refugees from Ukraine by the start of this year, more than Belgium’s 68,000.
With 1.6 per cent of Europe’s Ukrainian refugees, Ireland still fell far below Germany, now home to just over 1 million, and Poland, with 1.6 million.