Irish welfare cuts will hit one in three Ukrainian refugees - minister

Eurozone finance ministers meet on draft budget plans for 2024

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland's decision to slash welfare payments for Ukrainian refugees in state accommodation will impact close to one third of the 86,000 people who fled Russia's invasion and remain in Ireland, Finance Minister Michael McGrath said on Wednesday.

The government decided on Tuesday to reduce the payment to 38.80 euros ($41.96) from 220 euros, following an identical cut for new arrivals in March that ministers said has resulted in a slowdown in the number of Ukrainians seeking refuge in Ireland.

Just under 47,000 Ukrainian refugees are living in state-funded accommodation such as hotels where they are provided with meals and other services. This includes some of the 19,000 Ukrainians who are working and not in receipt of welfare payments.

"We estimate that approximately 86,000 of that 107,000 who came here from Ukraine remain in the state and this change will impact on about 27,000," McGrath told national broadcaster RTE.

Ireland has one of the highest rates of Ukrainian refugees to its own population of 5.3 million and the cut to welfare payments has been criticised by groups supporting the refugees.

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

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Sarah Young)