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Many international students are experiencing overcrowded living situations and are worried they will not be able to pay their rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey carried out by the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS).

Government has to ensure that the needs of international students are included in the COVID-19 crisis planning on the back of the worrying information revealed in the survey, according to ICOS and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).

One-in-five third-level international students have lost their jobs but are unable to access the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, according to the research among third-level and English language students about their wellbeing during COVID-19.

As well as job losses, the pandemic is having a serious impact on international students getting part-time jobs and enough hours to support their studies, many are even struggling to obtain a PPS Number, while 67 per cent of international students say they are concerned they will not be able to pay their rent.

USI President, Lorna Fitzpatrick said: “The ban on evictions was reassuring for many international students, but the concerns about being able to pay rent remain. Many international students will have expected to pick up casual work to support their studies, but that is proving challenging in the current crisis. This is especially difficult for students who have arrived more recently and had not secured work before the pandemic. Once the ban on evictions has been lifted, many students will face an enormous challenge in trying to pay back rent. We are calling for an extension of the legislation banning evictions and rent increases to allow people to get back to normal first.

“We are also concerned about the reports we have received from international students who left their accommodation to return home and have been unable to retrieve their belongings. We believe their accommodation providers should put a plan in place to ensure students can receive their possessions without facing additional costs to have their luggage stored or other such situations we are seeing.”

Concerns are also being expressed about the fact that less than a quarter of respondents reported having their own room in their accommodation, with more than 40 percent saying they share a room with three or more people.

ICOS Executive Director, Sarah Lennon said: “Overcrowding in accommodation creates problems not just in relation to COVID-19 but also in terms of accessing online classes and overall privacy and well-being. International students have expressed concerns about their ability to self-isolate if a roommate becomes infected.

“We are asking the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), the Minister for Health and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to ensure access to testing, effective contact tracing and proper accommodation arrangements to address the health needs of those in overcrowded accommodation.”

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