Written answers

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Department of Justice and Equality

Direct Provision System

Photo of Gerald NashGerald Nash (Louth, Labour)
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469. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will review the system of direct provision; the number of persons who are accommodated in direct provision centres across the State; if she will provide figures in terms of the number of children, those aged under 18 years, who are subject to the direct provision system; if she will provide figures in terms of the number of young persons who were born here who are currently accommodated in the direct provision system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26827/14]

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Direct provision is a system which facilitates the State providing a roof over the head of those seeking protection or on other grounds to be allowed to stay in the State. The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department is responsible for the accommodation of protection applicants in accordance with the Government policy. I acknowledge that the length of time that residents spend in Direct Provision is an issue to be addressed. My immediate priority is that the factors which lead to delays in the processing of cases are dealt with so that protection seekers spend as little time as necessary in direct provision.

A key priority for this Government is legislative reform aimed at establishing a single application procedure for the investigation of all grounds for protection and any other grounds presented by applicants seeking to remain in the State. Such reform would substantially simplify and streamline the existing arrangements by removing the current multi-layered and sequential processes and provide applicants with a final decision on their application in a more straightforward and timely fashion. In consultation with my officials, I am reviewing the work done to date in respect of the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill and will then decide on how best to progress the implementation of the Government's priorities, in particular to expedite those relating to the establishment of a single application procedure.

With regard to the more specific matters raised in the question, as at 8 June 2014 there were 4,353 persons availing of direct provision accommodation in 34 centres under contract to the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department. Approximately 38 % of these residents are children under the age of 18. Overall, 68 % of RIA residents had first claimed international protection in Ireland three or more years previously. More detailed information is available on the RIA website, .

With respect to the question of standards and inspections, I wish to advise the Deputy of the following measures currently in place:

- Centres are inspected three times a year, once by an independent company.

- Regular 'clinics' are held where residents can talk one to one with RIA staff regarding RIA's Child Protection policy and Garda Vetting Policy for all staff; and through its domestic violence and sexual harassment policy.

- A further complaints mechanism is contained in the centre House Rules which is considered by RIA to be broadly in line with the guidelines set out by the Office of the Ombudsman for internal complaints systems.

In addition, with respect to child protection, I would add that:

- The RIA operates a Child Protection Policy is based on the HSE's "Children First - National Guidelines for the protection and welfare of children".

- There is a specific unit in RIA called the Child and Family Services Unit, which is fully staffed and whose role is to manage, deliver, coordinate, monitor and plan all matters relating to child and family services for all asylum seekers residing in the direct provision system. It also acts as a conduit between RIA and the HSE, the latter having statutory functions in this area.

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