Almost a dozen companies in Ireland were paid more than €10 million to provide accommodation to Ukrainian refugees and asylum seekers from other countries in 2022. One hotel group, Tifco, the second largest hotel operator in the country, which also owns the Travelodge hotel chain, received more than €80 million from state contracts.
The highest-paid private companies accommodating refugees and asylum seekers included large hotel groups, as well as companies that have been involved in running direct provision centres for many years.
The Irish Times has analysed logs of more than 3,500 payments made by the country’s department of integration in 2022 to identify the highest-paid providers of accommodation for asylum seekers and Ukrainian refugees.
Government faces pressure to host Ukrainian refugees
The Irish government has been under pressure to accommodate more than 60,000 Ukrainian refugees who have fled to the republic since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, along with 20,000 asylum seekers from other countries.
The surge in the numbers of refugees and asylum seekers has put a huge strain on the Irish state’s ability to accommodate those seeking shelter, with hotels and tourist accommodation heavily relied upon to meet the demand.
Figures show that Tifco Hotel Group, the Irish business owned by US private-equity group Apollo, received €37 million to lease rooms.
The department of integration separately paid €25.8 million to accommodate asylum seekers and Ukrainians in Travelodge hotels.
The group received a further €20.5 million for providing its new 393-bed Travelodge on Townsend Street, Dublin, to the government to use exclusively as accommodation for asylum seekers.
Department withholds highest-paid providers’ identities
Tetrarch Capital was the second-highest-paid company, receiving €34 million to accommodate asylum seekers and Ukrainians, according to department figures.
The payments were made to Tetrarch’s company, Cape Wrath Hotel UC, which owns the 764-bed Citywest Hotel and convention centre in southwest Dublin, which the department runs as a transit hub for asylum seekers arriving in Ireland.
Financial records show a number of the highest-paid companies were ultimately owned by corporate structures registered in locations such as Luxembourg, Malta and the Isle of Man.
Several were also incorporated as company structures that do not require them to provide details of their internal finances and profits in annual financial accounts.
Irish Times calculates highest-paid providers
Despite the significant public interest in knowing the identities of the highest-paid providers of accommodation, the department of integration refused to release the identities of the highest-paid providers of accommodation under the Freedom of Information Act.
However, The Irish Times was able to calculate the figures by analysing logs of all payments over €20,000 made in 2022, which are required to be published quarterly by the department.
Each company was contacted by The Irish Times, but none responded to contest the calculated figures for the amounts received in payments.
Among the largest providers was the UK-based JMK Group, which was paid at least €17.2 million to accommodate asylum seekers in its Holiday Inn Dublin Airport hotel last year.
A company owned by former Monaghan GAA football manager Séamus McEnaney, Brimwood Unlimited, was paid €23.8 million to accommodate asylum seekers.
Mosney Unlimited, a company that has housed several hundred asylum seekers at a former holiday resort in County Meath for decades, received €15.8 million from the department in 2022.
Lack of transparency is a major concern
The lack of transparency surrounding financial transactions and ownership structures is a concerning aspect of these arrangements.
Financial records reveal that some of the highest-earning companies have corporate structures registered in offshore locations such as Luxembourg, Malta and the Isle of Man.
Some operate under structures that allow them to avoid disclosing their internal finances and profits in filed annual financial accounts.
The Irish Times reached out to each company for comment on the calculated payment amounts, but none responded to contest the figures.
Influx places strain on Irish state
.The issue of housing asylum seekers has become a dominant topic in the political agenda, with growing pressure on the government to find a better solution
The influx of over 60,000 Ukrainian refugees and 20,000 asylum seekers from other countries has strained the Irish state’s ability to accommodate those in need. As a result, hotels and tourist accommodations have been heavily relied upon to meet the demand.
The high payments received by private companies highlight the significant financial opportunities involved in housing refugees and asylum seekers.
The analysis of these payments sheds light on the scale of financial transactions and raises questions about the transparency and accountability of such arrangements. The challenge of providing refugee accommodation extends beyond Ireland’s hotels, also impacting their UK and US counterparts.