Thursday, 11 July 2019
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Direct Provision System
Under European Union and international law, as the Deputy will be aware, Ireland is obliged to examine the claim of any person who comes here and claims international protection under strictly defined grounds. While an international protection claim is being examined, the State offers accommodation and related services to anyone who requests it. This includes all meals, medical care and utilities. A weekly personal allowance is paid to each person and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection covers exceptional needs. The Department of Education and Skills provides school places for children resident in the centres and children also have access to the free preschool scheme and the early childhood care and education programme. The HSE provides mainstreamed health services to residents. It is a whole-of-Government approach to supports and services for applicants.
As of 7 July, the RIA of my Department was accommodating 6,082 people in its 39 accommodation centres and a further 988 people were in emergency accommodation. The use of emergency accommodation is suboptimal as it does not allow for the full range of services to applicants that the traditional centres provide. However, the State must ensure each person arriving in Ireland today to claim protection has shelter, food and any urgent medical care required.
The RIA has arranged the provision of emergency accommodation for international protection applicants since September 2018 due to the increasing numbers of people arriving in the State seeking international protection. The RIA had reached full capacity in its centres at that time but is committed to using emergency accommodation for as short a time as possible. It is actively working on securing additional capacity, both in existing centres and through sourcing new centres via a national procurement process. The use of such accommodation naturally incurs additional costs to the State, with expenditure this year likely to reach or exceed €120 million.
Residents in emergency accommodation are offered medical screening funded and managed by the HSE located at the Balseskin reception facility for the purpose of assessing recipients who have just arrived in the State.
In addition, arrangements are in place in various parts of the country to offer the service to those who do not avail of it in Dublin. The RIA is also seeking to contract a visiting support and cultural liaison service from the NGO community to assist those residents during their time in emergency accommodation. Residents in emergency accommodation can address any issues directly to the RIA. They may also contact the Ombudsman or the Ombudsman for Children if any issue is not resolved to their satisfaction.
Additionally, the RIA has facilitated visits by the Office of the Ombudsman to a number of emergency accommodation locations to meet residents and discuss any issues that may be a source of concern or that may arise.