One in 20 international students exposed to sex-for-rent proposals in Ireland: Report

International students in Ireland have been targets of an accommodation scam with one in 20 exposed to proposals for a room in exchange for sex, according to a new report.

In addition, they also experience other difficulties with accommodation such as overcrowding, scamming, unaffordable rents, substandard conditions and long commutes, an Irish Council of International Students (ICOS) report found.

The research, which surveyed 819 international students from 73 countries, said that 13 per cent of the students have been the victim of an accommodation scam, with only 11 per cent reporting it to the police.

Eighty-one per cent of English language students and almost a third (31 per cent) of students studying in higher education share a room with at least one other person.

Some 55 per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their mental health suffered due to the housing crisis in Ireland, according to the report published in the Irish Examiner on Tuesday.

One in 10 respondents said that it took them more than 100 days to find accommodation in Ireland, and 10 per cent said they pay more than 1,000 euros in rent per month.

Another 10 per cent of those surveyed said they live more than 15 kms away from their college or school, and some 5 per cent said they had either been directly offered a room in exchange for sex or seen an ad for such an arrangement.

“Among a range of other serious issues, we are particularly concerned about the evidence of predators seeking sex in lieu of rent,” ICOS Executive Director Laura Harmon, said.

“The housing crisis is jeopardising Ireland’s excellent reputation as a study destination and risks undermining the fantastic work being done in colleges across the country, which go above and beyond to create a quality student experience in Ireland,” Harmon said.

A Brazilian student described looking for a rental property in Ireland as “horrible”, adding that one of the properties she came across had 18 residents, the Examiner reported.

Quoting another student, the ICOS report said that when he arrived in Ireland, he was shown the property by the landlord, who told him that “the vacancy was for sleeping on the bed with him and asked if we could have sex”.

Another respondent said: “A group of people said that I could only move in if I was willing to have fun with those who lived there and some other people who live there”.

The ICOS report called for construction of affordable, purpose-built student accommodation, and sought an increase in inspections of private rental properties to ensure minimum standards are met.

International enrollment touched an all-time high in Ireland in 2022-23 at 33,480 students — a 12 per cent increase in comparison to 2021-22.

Beginning this year, Irish Ambassador Brendan Ward said he wants more undergraduates from India to pursue their higher studies in Ireland. According to data provided by the Embassy of Ireland, 6,422 student visas were issued to Indians in 2022.

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