Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 29 May 2019
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality
Direct Provision and the International Protection Application Process: Discussion (Resumed)
Mr. Nick Henderson:
It is not necessarily that it is a housing problem. For 20 years we have considered accommodating asylum seekers as something that should be dealt with via the Department of Justice and Equality through a very narrow remit using private providers and old buildings on the outskirts of towns. That should change. We must provide accommodation for people who come here and the direct provision population is approximately 6,500. If we take away the number of people who cannot leave, backlogs and delays in decision making, it might be possible to get that down to something like 5,500. It is not a large number of people.
Using the existing budget and engaging better providers to provide that accommodation would form the building blocks of a new system. I implore the committee to have a bottom line of own-door accommodation, the right to cook for oneself and one's family and a broader right to work and live in a community. These are the red lines we want to see. We need to design a procurement process that will allow housing bodies or other new entities to provide that accommodation. The current procurement process on eTenders is timetabled to go through the different regions of Ireland in 2019. A crucial problem with this is that it requires a provider to have a property with 50 beds or more. Every housing body with which we have worked and our colleagues from MASI who have lived in the system will say putting 50 people in one building will be problematic sooner or later. We need to redesign the procurement process.