Ireland’s higher education minister opposes repurposing student housing for asylum seekers

The Department of Integration is exploring the possibility of purchasing a €57 million student accommodation complex with the intention of converting it into a long-term reception center for asylum seekers.

Share the post
Photo via Pexels

Ireland’s Higher Education Minister Simon Harris has opposed the proposal to utilize student accommodation in Cork to house asylum seekers, expressing concerns that while it might address one issue, it could potentially create another problem.

Cork stands as the Republic of Ireland’s second-largest city, the third largest on the island, and the largest within the province of Munster.

The Department of Integration is exploring the possibility of purchasing a €57 million (approximately US$62 million) student accommodation complex in Cork with the intention of converting it into a long-term reception center for asylum seekers.

Harris said that while there is a genuine need to provide housing for asylum seekers, he also has a responsibility to address the housing needs of students.

Need for clarity

Harris emphasized the importance of avoiding a situation where addressing one problem leads to the creation of another. He stressed the need for clarity and certainty regarding the use of student accommodation for asylum seekers.

“What would the rent be? The rentals need to be the same. Would [alternative] accommodation be ready?” he said.

“I just don’t think it makes much sense. I don’t believe, in general, it’s viable,” he added.

On Jan. 19, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stated that repurposing student accommodation for individuals seeking international protection is not government policy. However, he acknowledged that it might be considered in cases where the accommodation has been unused for an extended period.

Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman is expected to present a memorandum to the Cabinet in the coming weeks, detailing a strategy to acquire, lease, and purchase properties for the long-term housing of asylum seekers.

The memorandum will not specify particular sites or buildings. Instead, it will delineate the approach the State intends to take in acquiring properties, detailing the necessary scale and transitioning away from an emergency response model.

Immigration system fair

Justice Minister Helen McEntee will also present plans on how to effectively communicate to the public that the State’s immigration system adheres to rules, is fair, and serves Ireland for socio-economic reasons.

Varadkar has indicated that the government is likely to choose a financial contribution rather than accepting more migrants under a new European Union pact on immigration.

Addressing the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Varadkar mentioned that Ireland has the choice to offer financial resources instead of accepting additional migrants. He noted that the government will need to make a decision on this matter.

Positive difference

In relation to providing support to communities that have welcomed a substantial number of asylum seekers and refugees, Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe mentioned that he will have information on the cost of the financial package for 10 towns receiving additional assistance by early February.

Donohoe stressed that the cost of the financial package for the 10 towns is expected to be a substantial figure. The government aims for the support to be “meaningful” and make a positive difference to the communities involved.

In response to a question about the government’s confidence in bringing those responsible for burning down buildings designated for asylum seekers to justice, especially considering no arrests have been made after 16 fires in the past year, Minister Donohoe expressed confidence in the commitment of the gardaí (police). 

He acknowledged that it takes time for the police to build cases that they can confidently pursue.

Comprehensive new policy

Harris recently presented a comprehensive new policy to the cabinet. This policy, aimed at expanding and improving student accommodation, marks a pivotal step in tackling one of the most pressing issues facing students across Ireland.

Recognizing the urgent need for more student beds, the government is injecting funds into building new housing on university campuses. Initiatives are already underway at Maynooth University, University of Limerick, and University of Galway, with a substantial €61 million (approximately $66 million) backing from the Government. This phase promises the development of approximately 1,000 student beds.

In a novel approach, the policy also focuses on converting unused and derelict buildings into student accommodations. This not only addresses the housing shortage but also revitalizes neglected structures, positively impacting urban landscapes.

Continuing the existing support for homeowners who rent rooms to students, the policy encourages the community to be part of the solution, thereby easing the pressure on the housing market.

Global Citizens 2030

The Irish Government has launched “Global Citizens 2030,” marking Ireland’s inaugural international talent and innovation strategy

The plan is set to draw in thousands of high-caliber students and researchers from around the world over the next decade, the Irish Times reported.

The strategy, deemed a “moderate growth strategy,” aspires to boost the number of overseas higher education students by 10 percent, with a specific focus on attracting top-tier PhD students for research and innovation projects in Ireland.

Nathan Yasis

Nathan Yasis

Nathan studied information technology and secondary education in college. He dabbled in and taught creative writing and research to high school students for three years before settling in as a digital journalist.

banner place

What to read next...
Nathan Yasis

Nathan Yasis

Nathan studied information technology and secondary education in college. He dabbled in and taught creative writing and research to high school students for three years before settling in as a digital journalist.

Sign Up for Weekly Top 12 News

Expert picks in the intl ed world, in your inbox.

Get the Top 12 trending international education news stories from around the world, sourced from authoritative media outlets and publications worldwide. 

This expertly curated newsletter aims to support the global knowledge base of international education stakeholders – higher education institutions, recruitment partners, government officials, service providers, and students. 

The newsletter is delivered to subscribers’ inbox every Wednesday evening at 10:30 PM PT / 1:39 AM ET. 

We respect and protect your privacy. If you do not wish to receive future issues of the MSM Reporter, you may unsubscribe at any time.
Read our privacy policy